The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come.
After watching a few re-runs of an old courtroom series, “The Practice,” my wife and I speculated upon my career choice, going back many years. As a college student and young adult, I always expected to go to law school. For a variety of reasons and circumstances, I ended up pursuing psychology at the doctoral level. Last night, my wife asked, “Do you wish that you had chosen the other path- the other direction?”
I believe that her question represents a common train of thought for many of us at various junctures in our lives. “What if I’d chosen to move to another state, attended a different college, married a different spouse, etc, etc, etc.” Whether we realize it or not, this is an attempt to “cherry pick” our lives in retrospect: to alter one aspect or decision while retaining the other elements of our personal history.
For the record, my response to Anita was an empathic, “NO!” My explanation to her was that I’m very satisfied with my wife, my now adult children, and with our current lifestyle and financial situation. Could I have made more money as an attorney? Perhaps, but there are poor lawyers too.
More to the point, would I have spent as much time with my kids? Who knows? Would they be the same people they are today if parental impact and influence had been different? Once again, who knows? For that matter, would I have ended up with the amazing wife that I have today? Same answer.
A guy named Monte Hall hosted a daytime TV show called, “Let’s Make a Deal.” Many of us remember it. The contestant would be offered a prize, which was shown behind “Door #1.” There were also doors numbered 2 and 3. The participant could keep the prize shown in the first setting or trade it for the unknown behind the other two doors. The unknowns were better at times and, at others, some sort of booby prize. But Monte never said to the game player, “You can keep some of what is shown behind Door #1 and also try for another door as well.”
Sadly, some of us reflect upon our lives with that same foolish, rule- breaking wish. Looking back, we try to negotiate with our past with the thought, “I’ll keep this and this, but change that” about the past. In my case, maybe I would have enjoyed being an attorney, but almost certainly, it would have changed so many other things in my life that I value, both past and present.
Could everything have been for the better had I chosen a different path? Perhaps. But I’m sticking with Door #1. Thanks to my wife, my kids, and the many clients and students I’ve worked with, I’d be crazy to wish for a better “door.”
Homework: As a reader of the “snowman philosophy” what are your “operative beliefs” on this subject? If you catch yourself wishing for one change in your life while wanting to retain a majority of what you have, stop it! But if you wish to change many things in your life, stop doing that too.
Instead, stop wishing and start acting!
You live life looking forward; you understand life looking backward. Kierkegaard