Have you ever said to yourself, “If only I knew [something], my life would be better now”? I know I have. Let’s look at how we can use this question to learn from the past, heal, and have a better future.
The past is in your head. The future is in your hands
When I was a younger everyone wanted to be smart. Everyone praised high academic achievements and tried to get them. Yet even when I started to get good grades, which wasn’t easy for me, I still had the feeling they weren’t enough.
I was surrounded by smart people who got amazing grades, but they weren’t happy, and I didn’t envy them. Eventually, I realized that being wise is more useful than being smart.
My youngest daughter Noff finished high school less than 2 years ago. Recently, she talked about the wisdom she gathered straight after finishing high school.
She thought several things were missing, saying, “I wish I knew that…” The list of things she would have wanted to know earlier was huge. What a pity.
Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement
Can you teach wisdom?
I’ve wondered about it many times. Can you teach wisdom?
The things Noff said she wished to have known in the past were things that Gal and I had tried to tell her, but just hadn’t sunk in. I know from personal experience that telling someone something is good, but they will only ever get it when they’re ready.
This is even true for me…
When Eden, our eldest daughter, was a baby, she was repeatedly sick with pneumonia. A good friend told me not to give her antibiotics. She suggested to change her diet and give her hot showers.
I honestly thought she was crazy. I ignored her and went ahead with about 10 courses of antibiotics.
But, after 6 months of treatment, medication and worries, I called my friend and said, “Sharona, you can talk to me now. I think I’m ready to listen”.
She told me the same things she’d said before, but I finally listened, and we changed our eating habits completely. Her advice made the biggest difference and literally saved Eden’s life!
It was a combination of her saying it again and me being open to accepting her advice and acting on it.
I believe you can’t teach wisdom. It’s something that just clicks.
I’ve always wondered about whether my friend’s suggestion sank in because I’d heard it several times or because I had opened up to her ideas. Maybe it was a combination of both.
I believe that hearing things over and over influences us, whether we recognize it or not. But when we are ready and the information appears to us again, something clicks.
Teach your future-self a powerful lesson
The past is where you learned the lesson. The future is where you apply the lesson. Don’t give up in the middle
I’m sure that all your life, you go over things in the past and tell yourself, “If only I knew…” It’s a very natural thought to have, and it’s extremely important to use those moments to remind yourself you just don’t know what you don’t know.
I believe that wisdom is a combination of being in the right frame of mind and being exposed and re-exposed to the right ideas. Learning takes time and repetition. So you need time and repetition to learn from the past.
To bring ourselves into the right frame of mind, we need to work on our personal development. It’s called “personal” because no one can do it for us and we have to do the work required to develop ourselves.
It’s like strengthening a muscle. There’s no pill you can take or other person who can increase the strength of your muscle for you. You need to work the muscle yourself.
By examining what we’ve experienced and how it’s affected us, we can constructively move forward from the past with new knowledge. I believe that when we do this exercise, without pressure, we can teach our future-self wonderful lessons. This is a good exercise to do at any point in time.
If you’re familiar with the 100-list activity, you know that aiming for 100 lessons is an enormous stretch. It forces your mind to go deeper into challenging events and situations and heal them. When we take learnings from difficult situations in the past, we grow, knowing we’ll use those learnings in the future.
Just because the past didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, doesn’t mean your future cant’ be better than you’ve ever imagined
Ziad K. Abdelnour
Take some time to make a list and learn from the past. Write “If only I knew that … it would have made my life different”. And be specific about what you wish you’d known and how things would have been different. Playing with hypotheticals and allow your mind to explore different options.
How to make your “If only I knew” list and learn from the past
Here are some tips for making a great “If only I knew” list:
- List challenging events in your life that didn’t turn out as you wanted. Ask yourself, “What was missing in this situation and what would have made it different?”
- Search for “quantum moments” – significant events that changed your path in life.
- Imagine a conversation between the present You and a younger You from the past. What would you have liked to know sooner? What wisdom would you share with your younger self?
- Think of feelings, character traits and skills you could have in each situation that would have made life easier for you.
- Remember things you regret saying or doing and write, “If only I said/done…” with better things to say and do, followed by better outcomes you would have gotten.
- Think of people in your life who have contributed to who you are now. Is there anyone you wish you had cut off earlier? Or opened up to sooner?
- School, especially high school, is a good place to look for most people. Think of what school has taught you, or hasn’t. What would have been beneficial to know when you were 13-18 years old?
- Think of money that you could have saved and what you could have done with it. Write, “If only I saved… I could have…” Gal and I did this exercise and calculated the money we invested in traveling the world. At the end, we realized we could have bought a few houses with that money, and yet, we still thought traveling had been better than saving that money.
- Relive the dreams you’ve had and imagine yourself fulfilling them. Write, “If only I started doing my art/music/dance/engineering/medicine earlier, I would be so much better now”.
- Think of any health issues you might have. Revisit the past to figure out what changes you could have made in the past that would result in better health now.
- When we learn from the past, it’s not all about regrets. Looking at the good that’s happened to us is a great way to pat ourselves on the back and lift our spirits. Think of positive things that have come out of not-so-happy events and teach yourself to reconsider how you look at “negative” experiences. Next time something similar happens to you, this will help you relax.
Life is divided into three terms – That which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present and from the present to live better in the future
Healing our past, present and future-self
Not knowing what we don’t know is inevitable. Realizing how knowing something ahead of time would have change your life is a wonderful way to heal the past and empower yourself to make a change now for a better future.
This exercise is a good way of accepting we’re not fortune tellers. But it also helps us take responsibility and change our future by taking the lessons from our younger self, and using them for our present-self to help our future-self.
If you want to know the future, look at the past
Sending you blessings of happiness,
This post is part of the series Make a List:
- Make a list: List Making
- Make a list: About Myself
- Make a list: Friends and Friendships
- 100 Things I Want to Be, Do and Have in My Lifetime
- 100 Things that Make Me Happy
- Make a list: Childhood Memories
- How to Clean Away Resentment and Be Happy
- 100 Ways to Say “I Love You!”
- Make a list: What I like about me
- Make a list: Birthday Presents to Ask for
- Make a list: Improve My Life
- Make a list: Things to tell my parents
- Make a list: Beliefs about Money
- 100 Feelings I Want to Feel (and how to feel them)
- Make a list: If I Could Live Forever
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids cont.
- Make a list: Events that Have Shaped Your Life
- Make a list: Ways to be kind
- Make a list: Be More Productive
- Make a list: Mistakes (and what I can learn from them)
- Make a list: Expectations
- Make a list: Beliefs about Traveling
- Make a list: Rules I Follow
- Make a list: Good Parenting Qualities
- Make a list: Excuses
- Make a list: Quotes to live by
- Make a list: How to use my time better
- If I Were Santa Claus
- What I Would Do If I Had One Year to Live
- 100 Things that Make Me Happy
- Make a list: Movies I loved
- Make a List: My Fears
- Make a List: Find your Happy-ism
- Make a List: Inspiring People
- Make a List: Books that have changed my life
- Make a list: Inspiring Movies
- Things to Be Grateful for
- Make a List: Ronit’s Gratitude Examples List
- Make a list: Life Lessons Learned
- Make a List: Self-Kindness
- Make a List: 100 Ways to Be Kind to Myself
- 100 Things I Want People to Think of Me
- Make a List: Judgment of Right from Wrong
- Make a List: 100 Reasons to Be Wealthy
- 100 Great Insights I Got from the Coronavirus
- How to Make Every Relationship You Want Good
- If I Only Knew: How to Learn from the Past