Question: how many moments can you count when you thought you made the wrong choice?
Sometimes, we wish we could go back in time & change a decision: we think we took the easy way out of something, we chose this job, house, neighbourhood, relationship, school…& later determine it was the wrong choice, we don’t like the motivation we had when we made a choice & spend time wishing we could go back & change it.
We’ve all been there; you aren’t alone in any of those regrets.
There’s nothing wrong with questioning our circumstances. It’s how we assess where we want to be. But judging ourselves for being in the circumstance is not helpful & not the way to move forward.
Here’s what happens when we don’t like the result of our choice & then make it mean something about ourselves:
- You lose your job – conclusion: That makes you a loser.
- A relationship fails – conclusion: That makes you a failure.
- You eat too much sugar – conclusion: You have no willpower.
We forget to question the validity of that conclusion & call it a fact without further examination. “Because I didn’t keep my promise to myself to “____,” it means “____” about me.”
A “wrong choice” does not define who you are.
Your decisions aren’t the de facto portrayal of your character.
Our choices play a role in forming us. I’m not saying otherwise.
But that is not the end of the story.
“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” Elanor Roosevelt
This quote has always unsettled me. It says two things – On the one hand, it’s very empowering: It’s the affirmation that we can choose a new path & make the changes we want to make. We can indeed change how we experience life through our choices.
On the other hand, read in a different light; that phrase can communicate the very mistaken idea that our choices yesterday define who we ARE today.
I’m sure the latter was not the intention of the honourable former first lady. And hey, I’m not going toe-to-toe with Elanor Roosevelt, but I know a lot of people who interpret their results to mean something terrible about them. So, seen from that perspective, it remains to be said:
I DON’T BUY THAT.
Our choices result in experiences that shape & influence us, but they do not define or permanently represent who we are. Why? Because we don’t exist in a permanent state.
Give yourself some grace. Your choices don’t label, establish or affix you to one place. Instead, they are a reflection of your current & ever-changing preferences.
Add to that, there are many reasons beyond our control that create the circumstances we find ourselves in.
I live in a rental. There was a time I felt like a failure for not yet owning a home. I had not met the requirements about the life I had decided I was “supposed” to be living by the time I was “supposed” to be living it.
Worse yet, I live in a fancy neighbourhood. They own, I rent. “Clearly,” my conclusion used to be, “I don’t belong in this neighbourhood.”
I made the circumstance define my value & what I “deserved” to have or not to have. If I’d taken a step back, however, I would have seen the reality was different. I had many GOOD reasons for not being a homeowner today:
- Many years ago, homeownership was not a high priority.
- I made a conscious decision to take in a bit less income to purchase more time for my family.
- I knew I might delay homeownership as a result.
- The time I needed was worth delaying homeownership to me.
Homeownership eventually became a higher priority; however, earlier in my life, it wasn’t. Therefore, deciding NOW that my choice THEN was wrong is neither fair on me nor an accurate portrayal of the facts.
Because the fact is, I didn’t make the wrong choice. I was respecting my needs at that time. I had a different preference then.
Reasons you are not defined by your “wrong” choice:
1. We change
We are changing beings with changing preferences. For the rest of our lives, we are going to be changing course. As long as we are growing, thoughtful and curious humans, we will try many different hats.
2. We have changing preferences
Trust the decisions you have made were for your greater good at the time. If you now desire a different outcome, you didn’t mess up your life. You changed your preferences & that is a natural, human thing.
Eventually, we ALWAYS arrive at a point where we have different priorities. That is not something to judge poorly; it’s something to judge well. We were taking care of ourselves by listening to the needs & preferences we had at that time.
3. We learn
Our decision may have created a scenario we don’t like. But that only means we either had more to learn or we changed our preferences. But, somehow, we’ve gotten the message that we are supposed to know everything & if we don’t, that means we are losers.
Neither the choice you made nor its consequence defines you. It simply means you may have more to learn in that area – just like every other imperfect human being on the planet.
4. We need compassion
When we see we can only do our best at any given time: it’s understandable why we make our choices – they are the only ones available at that time.
5. Hindsight is not 20/20
It is just as unfair to make our choices mean something about our worth as using hindsight to decide we made the wrong choice. That’s not being wrong. That’s being human. Remember those changing preferences?
You think yesterday’s choice was wrong. However, yesterday you thought it was a great idea. So give past-you the grace & the credit she/he/they do deserve.
My circumstance doesn’t define me, even if my choice led me there. My worthiness is not contingent on any decision, event, job, relationship, hobby or house.
If you don’t love where you are at because of your choices, trust that you made the best choice possible for you at the time, given what you knew at the time.
6. Our conclusions don’t always reflect reality
We revise history (usually) to our detriment & not based on reality. We make a choice that we don’t like the outcome of & often the conclusion we tell ourselves is: “See, I never make the right decision. I always get it wrong. Why can’t I ever get it right?” etc…
This is letting our circumstances define who we are. We are saying that where ever we find ourselves in life reflects the definition of our being.
The reality is: I decided on something in the past that led to an intended or unintended consequence. Now I want different things. That’s usually all the reality there is.
The result of your choice is a part of your journey, not a part of you.
You’re not done. You have more journey left in you to make a different choice in the future.
You never have to be defined by any one moment.
7. WE AREN’T WIZARDS
No one has a crystal ball. Not you, not I can see into the future, either to anticipate consequences or to foresee our changing needs, wants & desires.
We make decisions based on what we know at the time. We don’t ever intend to cause harm to ourselves & we never intentionally set out to make the “wrong” choice.
E. V. E. R.
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What are your thoughts about your own choices?
Are there some you may regret?
Can you look at some from a new perspective?
Is there room for more compassion?