“I need a do-over,” the character said in the American drama I was watching. To me, a British person, this was startling – in Britain, this would mean ‘I need to be beaten-up’!
“Seriously?”, I thought. Perplexed, I searched and found to my surprise that to Americans a ‘do-over’ means having another chance to do something that they have failed at, hoping to do better the second time around.
This was a revelatory moment for me.
Over the last few weeks, I have been brooding about a big cycling/walking event coming up. I hesitate to say ‘preparing’ for it. What I realised, as I was sitting on my sofa, is that actually, I have spent the last few weeks looking for a way to get out of this trip and wishing for a do-over of the last six months.
I was so focused on not feeling fit enough for the trip and wishing I’d spent the last six months doing more exercise that I didn’t use the time I did have to get more active and build up my strength and fitness. My preoccupation with wanting a do-over took up so much energy and mental space that I couldn’t take positive steps to solve my problem!
And the more I thought about this idea of a do-over, the more I realised how subtle yet deeply persistent it is. Not just in my mind but in the minds of so many people I speak to!
It’s not just the last six months, either. What I realised is how much of my life I have spent thinking about a do-over of my life. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), there’s no such thing as a time machine, so this isn’t possible. But that hasn’t stopped me from dwelling on the wish. And it’s the dwelling that’s the problem.
Much like regret, wishing for a do-over doesn’t actually get us anywhere. Reflecting on past problems and mistakes to consider how we might have approached them differently can teach us helpful lessons for the future, but after a point, we move past helpful reflection to simply being stuck in the past.
This is not conducive to living the life you love!
It can be difficult to see the line between helpful reflection and unhelpful preoccupation, but with practice and conscious consideration, it is a skill that we can develop. Given how sneakily ingrained this one is for me, I, for one, will be taking care to ask myself, “Can I learn anything useful from thinking about this event? Would my energy be better spent exploring what practical steps I can take now? What will best help me to get to where I want to be?” and to make a conscious effort to stop beating myself up for past actions and inactions.
So I’d like to invite you to consider whether there are things in your life that you’re wishing you could do-over. Is that desire actually serving you? Forgive yourself for whatever you did or didn’t do in the past, take stock of where you are now and where you want to be, and look at practical steps that you can take to get there. Past failures are rarely the death knell for ambition and happiness that we so often fear them to be.
If you’re struggling with this, contact us to find out how we can help you.