How we can change our history?
I guess at times we can have the experience of regretting parts of our lives whether through something out of our control or as the result of a decision or choice that we took. Hind sight is a wonderful thing and if we use it to learn and teach ourselves it can help to change our history that is yet to happen.
We cannot change our history that has been but we can change the history that is yet to come. In thinking about history that has passed we can become bogged down in ‘if only,’ ‘what if?’ ‘I wish I had to do it again.’ Those thoughts can stop us being in the present or moving forward as if tied to the past with a bungee chord.
I like the idea that we can create our own history accepting that at times we will be effected by events our of our control such as accidents, ill health, bereavement, redundancy and so on. But where we have choice and where we can learn from our own and others histories, we can effect the future.
Where we are able we can make choices so that when we look back in ten or twenty or thirty years time we can sigh and say, ‘I am really glad to have made those choices or dealt with that situation in the way that I did.’ In that way we can be we can be happy with our history that is yet to come but that we have effected. I hope that this makes sense.
The difficulty in overcoming the past and changing it is that can believe that things are as they are and that is that, the fatalistic view point. The glass is half empty and always will be, that is my fate.
How do we go about that? I ask individuals to take a moment and try to imagine how life will look in five, ten, fifteen, twenty or even thirty years time, if nothing changes and life continues as it is now. I would then suggest writing or drawing what this looks like, the future if it continues as it is now and has been up to now.
I would wonder how the person feels about this scenario and if they would be happy with that future picture.
Next we would repeat the exercise but this time thinking about how they would like their lives to look in the future, in five, ten, fifteen, twenty or even thirty years time. Again taking some time to represent these images on paper and to consider the feelings that would accompany this future scenario.
This idea presents itself to the person in a way that they may not have previously considered. They realise that they ‘can’ change their history by making a commitment today to be able to look back in the future and say, ‘I am glad to have had that life and to have made those choices.’
The next part of this process is to consider the following question: ‘If in the future I want to be able to look back and smile at my history, what is one thing that I can do today, right now, that will make it more possible for that history to exist in five, ten, fifteen, twenty or even thirty years time?’ This idea of ‘do one thing differently,’ is intended to challe our self fulfilling prophesies, fatalistic outlooks and glass half empty beliefs and is described in more detail by Paul Watzlawick in his wonderfully titled, ‘The Situation is Hopeless but Not Serious, The Pursuit of Unhappiness.’ (W.W. Norton 1983) He proposes this simple action as a means of escaping from the unhappiness of doing the same things over and over again, into happiness.
Finally, I suggest the idea of creating a ‘bucket list.’ Not one of those grand before you die bucket lists, simply a day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year one that keeps the us in contact with our longer term goal of ending up in life with a happy history. It can be helpful to share the bucket list with a friend or two who can help us keep tabs on our progress.
I believe that this is a possible recipe for contentment and for creating a personal history that, were possible, will contain fewer regrets.
The Situation is Hopeless but Not Serious, The Pursuit of Unhappiness