Here’s another long standing philosophy that I cling to:
There is no what ifs in life, there’s only what you do.
When I was in elementary school, I enjoyed reading “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. At the bottom of each page or section these books would offer the reader several choices with accompanying page numbers to skip to. Sometimes these choices resulted in an exciting story, and other times an abrupt ending to the book. When I would read these books, I would often get mad when the story started going differently than I wanted, or when a decision didn’t leave to great developments in the story like I anticipated. I would then skip back several pages and make different choices. Often times I would leave a finger in the page I left before I skipped ahead to the next section, making sure that I could go back and make the other choice if the story started going in a direction I didn’t like.
Life is not like a choose your own adventure book. There are not multiple alternate space-time continuums that represent what your life would have been like if you had made some other choice at some point. There’s no flipping back the pages, going back in time, and taking another path.
Every moment we live, is a moment of conditions, of the state of the world and of our lives. In that moment, and that moment alone, we act. We choose. At that moment, there is only the choice and the consequent effects of that choice. We can’t turn around and choose again. We can’t recreate that moment and alter the course of our lives. We can only move forward, we can never move back. If we failed at decision R, we must correct that decision through decisions S, T, U and V.
I don’t believe in theorizing on the “what-ifs” of past decisions. I think it’s at best fruitless and at worst painful and paralyzing.
There is only what you do.
This philosophy empowers me to lead a “no regrets” lifestyle. There is no sense in looking at the past and playing what if games. No sense in wondering what you would be like today had you done X, Y, or Z.
You might be thinking that the danger of this philosophy is that you won’t learn from your past mistakes, but what I’m talking about is a more real-time, constant analysis of your decisions. It is a hyper-sensitivity to the success or failure of your current decisions and a constant course correction toward something better. It’s advanced learning from your decisions.
This ties right into my philosophy that we all do exactly what we want to do (I’ll write that blog tomorrow).
Lets take an example… say you are a smoker. You will likely remain a smoker your whole life, until you come to a point where you say, you know what, smoking is killing me. It’s not good for me, and it’s especially not good for those around me. When you have that epiphany, and your basic want changes (I want to not smoke vs. I want to smoke), you will change. Your next decisions are most crucial in that change. There is no more going back and taking the tar out of your lungs.
You can only start from point now.
I realize that this philosophy might not work for all, but it certainly has worked for me. It has offered me a constantly forward looking life, and has prevented me from getting too mired down when I have made bad decisions.