While we can always learn from our past experiences and determine to do something differently the next time, the harm comes in getting so caught up in that past, beating ourselves up in the process, that we forget that tomorrow truly is a new day. A day to do things differently. A day to celebrate ourselves and all that we are, including our imperfections and shortcomings.
These things make us human, they make us real, and one day they will even endear us to that special someone who will truly love us unconditionally.
I still remember the night when my single girlfriend and I were at a local restaurant after a social event, and we saw two guys who had also been at that event. We both found them attractive and thought they looked interesting, and we went back and forth wondering how we might break the ice and meet them. They both seemed to be in a deep conversation with each other, although they seemed to look over in our direction a few times, enough for us to think they might be interested in meeting us, too.
We noticed that there were no rings on their fingers and they certainly seemed open and friendly enough in their body language, but they never took that step to come over and talk to us, despite our clearly inviting signals and body language.
It was soon time for us to leave, so we walked past them on our way out, smiled one more time and said hello. They both smiled and said "hi", but nothing more.
On our way home we wondered if we should have said or done anything more to open up a conversation, or even gone as far as walking up to them and striking up a conversation ourselves, instead of hoping for them to make a move. We stayed stuck in that depressing world of "what if" and the "what could have been", each in our own individual way, for far too long.
Finally we both realized that it simply didn't really matter. We decided to leave the world of "what if" and come back to the world of "what is". We realized that if it was meant to be, if either one of these guys were meant to be with us, we would meet again.
And more importantly, we realized the hard, cold truth of the matter: If either one of them had been interested in either one of us, they could have (and most likely would have) initiated a conversation with us. It wasn't all about us.
The point is, thinking about the past, focusing on what we could have or should have done differently, doesn't get us anywhere. Learning from that past, building on our previous experiences with new knowledge and new levels of comfort does.
Beating ourselves up over things we cannot change about the past, dwelling on what we wish we had done differently doesn't.
So look at the past, and all of those things you might have wanted to do differently, as learning points. If you feel, based on your past experiences, that you need to do something different, then do it. If you're not sure, then listen deeply to your heart and not all the shoulds or other people, and you'll find you have that answer deep down inside.
It's all a journey. We learn. We experience.
We find ourselves in situations where we wish we had done something different. And we learn again. We resolve to do things differently and then we learn the important life lessons that bring us through to the next season of our lives. And we fall back into old patterns from time to time. It's that three steps forward, two steps back type of learning that we find so frustrating, yet is so necessary to finding our way on our own time, at our own pace, at a timing that is unique to us and no one else.
And always allow yourself the gift of a fresh start.