Was speaking to one of my clients the other day, where he was talking about the regrets in his life, and how his life could have been much much better "if only" he had done one specific action differently. At the moment he said this, a host of other memories of discussions with other clients and my own personal network of friends started to flood in.
"If only I decided not to give my house to my ex-wife"
"If only I decided not to lend him that $7000, I wouldn't be in this financial situation"
"If only I told her how much I love her that day at the chalet, I could be the one she's marrying"
We live in regret at these lost possibilities imagine other dimensions of how our lives would be different after such decisions have been made the way we wanted them to be.
However there is a fundamental flaw in these "If Only"s: The likelihood of "If only I wore green socks instead of blue yesterday" is just as probable as "If only a purple Tyrannosaurus Rex barged into my office on a surfboard". They are just as unlikely to happen by the fact that they refer to making changes to a past event. Something small and specific is just as unlikely to happen as something totally ridiculous, just for the very reason that we are referring to a scenario in the past.
The fact is that things always look different in retrospect, and that you can always think of 1001 other alternatives to make things better. But of course, if we had the benefit of foresight for everything we do, either, we would take a rather long time to come to any decision, or that life will grow less mundane without the surprises and impromptu confusions we find ourselves in.
Perhaps being more aware of the non-control we have on our past, we can finally move on and find that "inner peace" (Watch Kung Fu Panda 2, it's great!).
It is not so much our past that makes us who we are, but our current perceptions of our past that affect how we function in the present.