Here’s a little thought experiment I’d like you to try.

If you had a chance to go back and relive some part of your life or get a do-over, you’d probably do it, wouldn’t you? Not me. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back and do it again. Good or bad, once is enough.

When we look back, we tend to either glamorize events that weren’t half as great as we remember them, or beat ourselves up over bad choices that are just part of life. Neither helps. We have sayings like “if I only knew then what I know now.” Yeah, and then what? Think about it.

If you really screwed up — I mean royally — then maybe it might make sense to go back and make it right. That aside, if you could go back in time with today’s knowledge and either relive a positive event or handle a negative one differently, I think you’d be very disappointed in the result.

I don’t believe in fate, but looking back, everything that’s ever happened to me happened for a reason. Experience is how we learn. Without past mistakes, we never learn important lessons that make us better people in the present.

Strangely, I see no upside and plenty of downside risk in reliving the past. You’re better off just enjoying the good memories, learning from the bad ones, and moving on.

Incidentally, that little thought experiment is the reason why – in my work and personal life – I only go forward and never try to relive the past. Even if I could, I would not change a thing. You can never go back. And if you did, nothing good would come of it. That I’m sure of.

Image credit Shrinivas Sankaran via Flickr

  • SamHanson

    I was asked this question when I was 6, two years after my Dad had passed away, the answer was “I would want to, but no”.
    21 years later, the answer is still “No”.

    If we were not equipped to be able to deal with the situation properly, there’s no guarantee that a single intervention or change would have meant the difference. It might even cause damage. Suppose you were making a deal and you weren’t as good in deal-making as you are today, if you went back in time and changed one thing – the following events would still have the old you, the one with less deal-making skills handle the rest of it. It would probably collapse anyway, or worse.

    As you said, we go through mistakes to learn from them and improve ourselves. Without the former, there will be no latter.