It’s Too Late to Change the Past, but the Future is Very Much in our Control
It’s the fondest wish of some, to travel back through time and correct the mistakes they’ve made and set their life on a new course. If they would have known then what they know now, the thinking goes, they could have ruled the world.
The past is, of course, the past. It’s set in stone. There’s no changing it because it is behind us and there’s no turning back. If we turn this way of thinking around 180 degrees, however, it can become one of the greatest tools we have in building our future and our long-term success.
Our Present and Future Selves
We may look back and cringe at some of the choices we made as children, teenagers or young adults. We were still learning how the world worked and were in the process of becoming who we would become. As is the case whenever we try something new, there were bound to be setbacks, mistakes and times where we simply screwed up. People who excel in life learn, grow and eventually start to think like adults.
And that is the beginning of holding ourselves accountable for our actions, behaviors and results.
While we should always be learning, evolving and sharpening our skills, we understand how the world works. We know the things we need to do to build the future we envision. There are few surprises when it comes to the basics of excelling in life.
And yet, so many people are surprised when the day-to-day activities they took comfort in didn’t set themselves up for success. “I turned around and saw I had wasted the last 30 years” is not something those who follow The Theory of 5 will ever say. Time might seem to go by more quickly as we get older, but it’s always within our power and influence and fill our time with productive activities and behaviors to continuously become the best version of ourselves.
Instead of saying, “Wow, if I knew then what I know now,” we will take what we know now and build for the future. Procrastination is the enemy of exceptional. Each time we defeat the urge to put something off until “tomorrow,” we get one step closer to our dreams. Looking through the windshield rather than the rearview mirror is key to building our future.
We all understand what we do today will put us in better shape to reach our goals for tomorrow. What about next week? Next year? How about 10 years from now, or 30 years in the future? The time we invest in ourselves will pay huge dividends that most people could never imagine. Let’s take a quick look at The Theory of 5 core areas through this lens:
Health — This one is probably the easiest to predict. If we get in better shape now, it’s much easier to maintain that level than to try and dig out of a hole that bad habits, terrible diet and a sedentary lifestyle put us in. If we wish we’d lost 30 pounds last year, we’re still going to have that same desire next year. The difference is that we can start now to hit that goal for our future self. It’s particularly important to look at this area in long-term perspective. If we’re in bad physical shape now, it didn’t happen overnight (unless we’ve been in an accident). It took time to dig the hole; it’ll take time to get out of it. The only way we’ll do it, though, is to start today. “Tomorrow’s” exercises won’t do a thing for us today.
Relationships — If we show our spouse or significant other that we’re thinking of them and that we value and appreciate everything they do for our lives, our relationship with them will only get stronger. If we put off showing that we care — “we’ll go out next week” — we damage our connection. It might not seem like we are at the time, but neglecting our partner over the days, weeks, months and years builds a wall between us that, one day, may be too high to overcome. Take the time today to show that we are grateful and they are important to us.
Parenting — If we think of what we were like a year ago, we usually don’t see much of a difference. If we think of the changes a year makes to our children, however, we’ll see a massive transformation. We’ll never get that time back, and if we get too busy, we’ll regret not having the memories of being there for them. If we have young children, we must make sure we get to know them at each and every age, and be present and mentally focused during our times together. If we have adult children, it’s just as important to share our time with them now; they don’t need us in the same way they did as a child, but both our lives will be richer for maintaining a strong, loving relationship.
Business — It can seem overwhelming if we need to get more training or take classes to reach the next step of our career, but think of it this way: If it will take a year of training to get to where we really want to be, we will be a year older when that training is done. We will also be a year older if we don’t get that training. Worse, we’ll be a year older and not a bit closer to our goal. Putting in the time and effort now gives us more time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Likewise, if we put in more effort to mastering our career, that time is never wasted. Remember: It’s easy to put things off, but the clock is always ticking.
Spirituality — Many of us don’t often think of the religious or spiritual side of life until we’re forced to by some tragedy or challenge in our life (the old saying “There are no atheist in a foxhole” comes to mind). Wouldn’t we be better off, however, if we gave some time to practice our faith, or consider our place in the universe when we weren’t in crisis? The comfort we look for in times of need will also be a comfort when things are good. This will also strengthen our faith during those times when we need it most.
What’s Our Next Step?
Sure, we all wish we would have bought a ton of Apple stock in 1998 when it was only $7 a share, but there are plenty of things within our control that we don’t need a crystal ball to predict. If we take care of ourselves now physically, we’ll feel better. If we spend quality time with our partner and children, we’ll have better relationships. When we put our best actions and efforts into our workplace, we’ll absolutely see results and rewards. It’s not magic. There is no silver bullet. It’s just how the world works — and we all know that.
So, the choice is ours. Will we curse or thank our past selves in the future? Choose to live a Theory of 5 life!