You know the feeling. You’re running that loop over and over in your head — looking at a situation and wishing you had made a different decision.
It’s times like these when you wish you had a magic bullet. And, while there are no magic bullets available in our world, you could look at building your own arsenal.
After all, it doesn’t do any good to beat yourself up about past decisions. Even if they were really bad. Author and personal development expert Ayodeji Awosika has compiled some phrases that could help in situations like these. With insights from my professional experience added, take a look at these tips from the emotional toolbox.
Emotional toolbox — handy phrases
- “I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.”
I first heard this phrase from author Louise Hay years ago, and it has stuck with me ever since.
This doesn’t mean you couldn’t have done any better. As author Awosika explains, though, you’re not deeply flawed just because you made some wrong choices. Maybe you made a bad decision because your mind told you it was the right thing to do at the time.
“I look at a lot of my youthful indiscretions this way,” says Awosika. “In a way, making very bad decisions about selling drugs made sense at the time. I was broke, needed money, and selling drugs seemed to be the quickest and most efficient way to get it.”
Hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes. In some way, your past decisions made sense. The key is to explore those reasons and to analyze the past — instead of beating yourself up about it, Awosika explains. You would likely make a different decision — with what you know today.
2. “This is where I am, and I have to deal with it.”
“Every moment you spend wishing things were different is a moment you could have spent figuring out what needs to be done in the present,” says Awosika. “I found myself in several holes at one point in my life. I was a college dropout, had a $10/hour job and was a convicted felon.”
Although he could have given up and resigned himself that the mountain was too steep to climb, Awosika used this phrase to figure out what could be done to make things better.
“My life changed when I reached a point of full acceptance,” Awosika continued. “I messed up, and it was what it was.” Although it can take months or years to turn things around fully, you need to stay focused on what you can do now.
Maybe you’re thinking things weren’t fair. With tongue in cheek, I’ll use my standard response to this statement: “Fair’s in August.” It doesn’t do any good to go back and ruminate.
3. “It’s not my fault, but it is my responsibility.”
A lot of times we focus on the way we think the world should work, rather than the way it actually does work.
“There’s no question it’s unfair for you to take certain responsibilities,” Awosika explains, “but taking responsibility still makes sense most of the time because it gives you the power to change your life.
“There’s another saying, ‘You can have freedom, but it comes at the cost of responsibility,’” he adds. “Most people don’t want full responsibility because you have nowhere to turn but the mirror when things don’t go your way.”
Shirking responsibility — or even pointing the finger at injustice — can be used as coping mechanisms. And, while they can give you some sense of solace, Awosika continues, you have to give up your addiction to solace if you want to be free.
4. “It’s not over ‘til it’s over.”
We’ve all rooted for sports teams. When the other team is so far ahead, we tell ourselves there’s no way our team can catch up. It seems like we ought to throw in the towel.
At times, though, we witness big comebacks. This often happens when the underdog decides to go “all out.” Because they have nothing to lose, some of the pressure gets taken off. And then they make a big comeback.
If you’re stuck in a rut, you could use this analogy to go “all in.” Since there’s no pressure on you, you could come from behind like these sports teams. Once momentum is created, you may find yourself on a streak of improvement.
“Figure out what that looks like for you,” concludes Awosika. “Try starting today. See what happens. Maybe you could do well tomorrow, too. Then go a week. Then a month. Who knows? You may just change your life.”
Tying things together
It all starts — and ends — with what you tell yourself. If you’re in a hole, dig yourself out, a little at a time. Dust yourself off.
Consider using the Jerry Seinfeld method. Hang a large calendar on the wall, and put an “X” across every day that you stick with your goal. Pretty soon, the urge to slack off is not as attractive as putting another “X” on the calendar. You won’t want to break the chain.
In so doing, you may just unchain yourself.