Why Looking Forward Is Better Than Looking Backward

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Life can be a peculiar tangle of heavily used roads, busy junctions, hidden alleys, untrodden paths and overlooked exits. An abundance of variation. A plethora of possibility. Random. Cluttered. Unpredictable. Out of this pool of combination one series of events will ultimately form us, define us and shape our existence. A stretch of time, that – at the end of our life – we will look back on, able to unerringly single out the most significant victories, setbacks and turning points.

Sure, we influence our passage through this labyrinth that we call life by the decisions we make. Yet, sometimes it is mere chance that changes our course. Some may call it destiny. Some karma. And some God’s will. But let’s agree, it is something that lies beyond our control. So part of it just “happens”, and for parts of it we can hold ourselves responsible.

The perpetual struggle with ifs, buts and had I onlys

I see this as a gift – and as a curse. You see, self-determination entails autonomy, choice and self-realization. And this is definitely a gift. But for many, it is probably also a curse. I am not saying we shouldn’t hold ourselves responsible for the choices we make. But we don’t need to exaggerate either. What if we remain in constant struggle with the awareness of the sheer multitude of possibilities life has to offer? The “ifs”. The “buts”. The “had I onlys”. In hindsight, we almost always know it better. And that’s the crux of the matter. We start questioning our past and invalidate our decisions. Self-realization turns into self-doubt.

What was once the right thing to do, will now be re-evaluated in the context of differing life circumstances and what we deem “better” knowledge. It is easy to say “I should’ve” or “I would’ve” once we have made a choice and have seen the outcome. Maybe that’s why so many involuntarily judge others on their decisions instead of forming their own.

To me, the reasons for this seem to be mostly envy and fear. Envy of the other’s courage. And the fear of failure that lurks behind every step in life. The fear of one’s future self chiding the younger, unsuspecting one. It successfully holds us back and keeps us paralyzed. In this cacophony of envy, fear and judgement, we forget what’s actually of importance: The moments that we live in. The experiences that lie in front of us. The opportunities that are to unfold.

What about our instincts?

Instead of carrying on the discovery of what life has to offer, we begin to halt to overthink whether to turn left or right. Our insecurities grow. With every if and every but we allow our fear to build up. We give way to over-reasoning and over-calculating and ignore our instincts. I am not saying we should run into decisions blindly. I am not saying we should run through life throwing caution to the winds. But trusting one’s own instincts might sometimes not be a bad idea.

We should have more confidence. In ourselves. In our choices. In life. The decisions we make are made with reason. The consequences that follow will be based on this. What’s done is done. No “ifs” and “buts” will change that. Nor will a “had I only”. The only thing we can do is focus on what’s ahead of us. Make peace with the past. And shine light onto where fear of failure is lurking. Because in the end, life will go on. The next day will come. And bring new possibilities, new chances and new opportunities.

That’s my two cents.

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