We’re all big on beating ourselves up.
And it’s hard not to be – we’re only human, after all.
We make mistakes. We have consciences. We look back and see the path we should have chosen. It all seems simple and straightforward in retrospect.
Except it isn’t. It’s never as straightforward as it seems.
We look back and see only what may have gone right, had we picked the other option. But we forget about what may have gone wrong.
We forget about what opportunities that choice would have omitted. We forget that when we picked Path A – the path we later inevitably regretted – there’s a reason we picked it in the first place. We had a need that only Path A could have fulfilled.
Maybe that need was something tangible – more money or security or recognition. And if Path A failed to deliver, it’s easy to assume we ought to have chosen differently. But more often, it’s something intangible we’re after.
We’re after happiness. Fulfillment. Adventure. Acceptance. Passion.
And those needs become harder to measure. Those needs are a gamble, no matter which means we take to achieve them. Those needs will always underlie important choices and they’ll often fuel our greatest mistakes.
And so it’s easy to look back and assume, when these intangible needs are not met, that we simply should have chosen the other option. That Path B was the clearer, better choice.
But here’s the thing: You chose Path A for a reason.
Even if it was riskier. Even if it was less logical. Even if looking back, Path B seems like it would have provided all the things that Path A failed to give.
But it couldn’t have provided peace of mind.
You chose Path A because it was what you really wanted (or at least, it offered you the greatest shot at what you really wanted). You picked it because the truest part of yourself wanted to pick it. Because the core of you needed to pursue it.
And had you not picked Path A, you always would have wondered.
Even if Path B had given you everything you wanted. Even if you had turned out healthier and wealthier and wiser than you could ever have imagined, you wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it. Not fully. Not entirely. Because some part of you always would have thought back on Path A – and hated yourself for not picking that option.
What if you’d said f*ck it. What if you’d put yourself out there. What if you had, for once in your life, gone all the way with what really matters.
Path A would have haunted you, had you not chosen it. In the exact way that Path B haunts you now.
And the truth is, any choice other than the exact one you made would have been the wrong choice anyway.
We always choose what we need most in the moment. We always choose the thing that gives us the source of hope we need.
So maybe it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to. So many of our big decisions don’t.
But that doesn’t mean they were the wrong decisions. That just means that they taught us the lessons we needed to learn at that time.
Choosing the wrong person to love shows us which part of ourselves we’re still depending on others to fulfill.
Choosing security over adventure shows us what our intuitive mind needs to feel safe, before we’re comfortable leaving to explore.
Choose opportunity over security shows us what we’re running away from. Choosing isolation over connection shows us which parts of ourselves we’re most afraid to admit to.
Looking back, we may not love the paths we’ve chosen. But we’re always, always able to learn from them.
And the lessons we learn aren’t insignificant. They are not useless.
They are always the exact lesson that we needed to learn at that time.
And whichever path we chose will always have been the one we needed to learn from most.