Facing the Mistakes of Life VI

Musing over the dreams of youth, the golden hopes that have not blossomed into deeds, is a dangerous mental dissipation. In very small doses it may stimulate; in large ones it weakens effort. It over-emphasizes the past at the expense of the present; it adds weights, not wings, to purpose. “It might have been” is the lullaby of regret with which man often puts to sleep the mighty courage and confidence that should inspire him. We do not need narcotics in life so much as we need tonics. We may try sometimes, sadly and speculatively, to reconstruct our life from some date in the past when we might have taken a different course. We build on a dead “if.” This is the most unwise brand of air-castle.” William George Jordan

There are a million ways to avoid dealing with the present moment. Dreaming about the future, obsessing about the past are two longtime favorite escape mechanisms and it seems that more and more people are numbing themselves to life through the use of antipsychotic medications. In fact, I read recently that as of 2008 antipsychotic drugs became the top-selling class of prescription drugs in the United States. Such statistics make me wonder if we, as a society, are deliberately numbing ourselves more deeply to life as a result of feeling less connected with reality and the present moments of which it is composed.

When body, mind and spirit are subluxated, no matter how slightly, function, vision and perspective are compromised. These dislocations can be attenuated by stimulants or depressants, but more often than not they can be permanently corrected by the cultivation of a deep and lasting sense of purpose and meaning. It is commonly understood that our bodies run according to the principles enumerated in biochemistry, yet few people realize how important the physics of the body, that is, its energetic principles, are to balance and optimal health.

It was once said that a “house divided against itself cannot stand.” I’ve seen the pattern play out over and over again. It is hard to refute. If your mind and heart are not in agreement about your direction, your function will be impaired. If you allow yourself to obsess mentally or emotionally about the past, you will tend to miss many of the opportunities sitting right in front of you.

Take a moment to consider this sequence of thinking by William George Jordan. With one pinprick he dismisses any notion that dwelling in the past could be valuable to anyone, anywhere:

We go back in memory to some fork of the road in life and think what would have happened and how wondrously better it would have been had we taken the other turning of the road. ‘If we had learned some other business;’ ‘If we had gone West in 1884;’ ‘If we had married the other one;’ ‘If we had bought telephone stock when it was at 35;’ ‘If we had taken a different course in education;’ ‘If we had only spent certain money in some other way,’—and so we run uselessly our empty train of thought over these slippery ‘ifs.’

Even if these courses might have been wiser, and we do not really know, it is now as impossible to change back to them as for the human race to go back to the original bit of protoplasm from which science declares we are evolved. The past does not belong to us to change or to modify; it is only the golden present that is ours to make as we would wish. The present is raw material; the past is finished product,—finished forever for good or ill. No regret will ever enable us to relive it.

What will you make of the golden present? Will you continue to run from it, to dodge and duck, toke and swig to run from its occasional discomfort or will you join me and greet it head on, so that the winds of change generate lift rather than maximizing your crosswind component?

Life is easier than most people make of it. By the way, before I forget, you’re never too young to see the present moment for what it always is: the perfect starting point.

8 thoughts on “Facing the Mistakes of Life VI

  1. Brigitte

    It just makes perfect sense as there is nothing we can do about 5 minutes ago, yesterday or last year. We only have the present moment – why not live in it and take advantage of it.

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  2. Colin

    The present moment offers innumerable opportunities. Even if you only have two options in front of you at this very moment, the way they both branch in the future allows us to do almost anything. So then, why focus on the past? Why focus on the future any more than by sketching an outline of a plan so you know the general direction you should move in? There is so much to do right now! And there is little time compared to the things there are to do. Don’t waste it in “what ifs”. Take advantage!

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  3. David R

    If there is a sense of regret with respect to a turn that was unfortunately taken, it is a sensitivity that may, if properly recognized, seal off the motivations that produced the fault so that they can never again spoil a golden opportunity. Once it is recognized, however, and fully released, the halls of regret are no place to dwell!

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  4. Ricardo B.

    Yep, forecasting the weather is hard enough as it is; better to stay flexible enough and adapt healthily to the ‘winds of change’ – for who knows which way the wind will blow? And it’s true as you state, that’s all we have to work with anyhow – today, the right here and now. The past serves its value in the reflection of action, where hindsight gives a more seasoned perspective on things, where we can learn from things we did well and also from our own mistakes, to act better now and also in the future. That’s being free from the past. Bound to the past includes what is known as deep regret, where one just can’t seem to shake the haunting spectre of some ill deed. The counselor attempts to hint at a life in the future that is not too clear with all the various influences that permeate the individual and tries to make the best use of the current information to provide direction. Depending on the counselor’s temperament, they can help be freeing to you or they may well end up immobilizing you in their own spell that they are under. To choose counsel wisely, to pick friends wisely, is a saving grace. Too often we see commiseration where a more strict adherence to principle would have served the person far better. Commisery sedates the pain, but as Mr. Jordan deftly noted, we need tonics more in our lives. We need influences that help align us up rightfully when we have strayed too far out of balance.
    I must commend the tonifying qualities of your writings – que gusto!

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  5. Kimberly

    What a thrilling post! It is never too late to live this golden moment to the fullest. Thank you. I appreciate your effot here and will put it to good use!

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  6. Brad

    Gregg,
    I’ve been reading your blog on a daily basis for many months now. I’ve always been interested in the type of writing that inspires and seeks to bring out the best in people. Over the years I’ve been asked if “all that reading really makes a difference?” I’d have to say that the reading itself doesn’t make the difference it’s what I’ve done as a result of the time spent. It all boils down to what we do with what we read and participate in. I’ve seen in myself incremental changes, sometimes larger than others. Had I not taken the time to read daily, who knows what if any significant changes I may have made. My point is, I’m spending my time doing something, so why not contribute the best me I can be to the whole every step of my life.
    Thank you for your continued encouragement and daily writing – it is making a difference.

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