I met with a client this week who reminded me so much of a younger version of myself and of a stuck point I think many of us have struggled with from time to time:
The alternate universe. The idea of, “if only this hadn’t happened, then…” The ideas of what could have been but isn’t. My grandma and I used to have these conversations all the time as she neared the end of life. We would talk about each choice we had made (though I was young, so mostly her) and how these choices lead to where she ended up. The idea that if one small choice had been different it would have changed the whole course of her existence. “The butterfly effect” if you will.
She had lived a life of constant movement because her husband (my grandfather) was never happy where he was and always thought that moving was the solution. She told me the story many times of the “last time” he said he wanted to move somewhere new, it was Philadelphia I believe… She would light up as she would tell me of the night that after agreeing to move yet again, she sat up in bed in the middle of the night and said, “I am NOT moving again!” and they didn’t go. She was so proud of this, as it was a very defining moment in her life where she finally learned to stand up for herself and take control over her story. She would often talk about all the things that had to have occurred up to that point to allow her to make such a declaration.
Where I think sometimes the “might have been” creates a stuck point is either in a point of regret, where we wish we had done something differently, and there is obviously no going back in time. Or what almost makes things harder at times, is when someone else’s choice directly impacted the course of your life. So not only can you not go back in time, but even if you could…there STILL wouldn’t be any changing the event because it wasn’t your choice in the first place.
We can all picture the reality that “might have” existed if “things were different.” How do we release this? The expectation of wanting things to be different, even though they can’t be? Something that has personally helped me through this is entertaining this for a minute, with not only “How would things be different?” AND also “How would I be different?”
Are you aware that you change somewhat based on the people you are around and certain people/experiences/circumstances bring out different sides of you? For example, I am a leader in some areas of my life. I consider myself a leader at work (in my day job) AND when I am with a group of friends I spend a good amount of time with, there is a friend who takes the role of “leader/organizer” in that group, so I step into a more passive role. Make sense?
In a different example, such as in a romantic relationship/marriage, being with your partner brings out certain sides of you to balance out one another. If Person A is good at finance and Person B enjoys planning (for example of course…not from my own life at all;) these are the roles that fit best together. But if, for example, Person A had married an accountant, likely that accountant in the couple would take care of the money aspect of things, bringing out a different side to person A. Still with me?
On that same note, I think of a couple who one person might be a bit more spiritual than the other. This person may wonder what might have happened if she had ended up with someone similar in spiritual ways to herself, though might recognize that in another relationship, she would be different, she would be the one keeping everything straight, running the finance, etc. but by being with someone who does those things, it allows her space to be her true self.
One more…if you grew up in a city area, being very fast paced and then move to a much more rural area where things are typically slower and more relaxed, this will impact you over time. You may have a friend come visit you from your old life, and they may comment on how “different” you seem in your new environment.
So back to my thought on releasing what “might have been.” If it was supposed to have been, it would have been. I know this is kind of the “everything happens for a reason” B.S., but bare with me. Could you have made a different choice? I don’t actually know, but I tend to think not. You made the decision you made (even something as simple as to take the 8am train or the 8:15 train) based on every experience you had up to that point (the last two times I took the 8:15 train, I was almost late) and ultimately unavoidable, leading you exactly to where you are in this moment, reading this blog post.
So when you get stuck in the “I wonder how things would have been if only…” thing, ask yourself this: What did I learn from the experience? How will this information potentially help me in the future? Mentally tuck that information in your back pocket for future use, then close the book from that experience and put it back on the shelf where it belongs in the library of events in your life. There’s nothing more to be done there.
You can cherish the memory of a time in your life, a place, a person you used to know, but remember that if you revisit that place again, rekindle an old relationship, etc., it will not take you back in time, it will not feel like the first time, and often, it will feel stale, or unfulfilling if you have that expectation. Let it be what it was and move on. You are meant to move forward and live right now, in this moment. Stop looking out the rear view window, there is beauty all around you and magic in the moment.
As always, if you would like some one on one coaching around something related to this or moving through barriers that have kept you stuck, I’d love to talk more with you. Please see my contact page for information on setting up a FREE 60 minute Creating Confidence Strategy Call with me.