A Time Machine Isn’t the Best Way to Fix Your Mistakes
BY PAUL MEEN PARK
MARCH. 28, 2018
When I was younger, I used to have a lot of trouble dealing with regrets.
Out of the blue a majorly colossal screw-up from my past would pop up in my mind, and I’d cringe, thinking, “How could you be so stupid!?” (There may or may not have been some actual facepalms involved.)
As a sci-fi geek, I often wished I had access to a time machine (preferably in the shape of a DeLorean) so I could jump back into my past and fix some of my more cringe-worthy missteps. Then I would finally be happy.
Of course, some of you are probably thinking, “Moron. That’ll never work. Haven’t you seen The Butterfly Effect or Timecop?” And you’d have a point. If my little jaunt into the past worked out like it does in most movies, I’d return to the present only to find that I’d inadvertently altered the timeline so my son was never born, or—horror of horrors—Nintendo had never released the Switch.
So, aside from the fact that time travel is currently impossible, and probably wouldn’t be a good idea even if it did exist, there’s another important factor to consider: wanting to fix our mistakes in the past is a big mistake in itself.
There Are No Mistakes, Only Lessons
How have I become the person I am today? My thoughts, my feelings, and my mindset are, at least partially, a result of all the experiences I’ve had throughout my life. Those experiences include good things and bad, stuff I’m proud of and stuff I wish had never happened.
But I now realize I shouldn’t have that wish. My gaffes and screw-ups are part of me; they’re some of the jigsaw puzzle pieces that have joined together to help make me, well, me. Without those missteps, and the lessons I learned from them, I’d be a different person today.
In some of my other blog posts I’ve mentioned one of my favourite quotes from Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win or learn.” This perspective has changed my thinking and the way I see my past mistakes. Now, whenever a blunder rises out of my memory and tries to punch me square in the ego, I focus on what I learned from the experience, and how I can apply that lesson to the rest of my life.
I don’t have to cringe anymore. In fact, I refuse to.
five Minutes of Heaven
(No, that’s not what this section is about. Get your mind out of the gutter.)
Over the past while I’ve been working on redirecting my mental energies. Instead of futilely wishing I could change my past, I focus on trying to find happiness today.
Ever heard of Abraham Maslow? He was an American psychologist who’s probably best known for coming up with Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. He once said, “We can get into heaven, but for five minutes. Then you have to come back to the world again.”
Maslow’s point was that heaven isn’t a destination or a place—it’s a moment in time. Happiness can be found in ordinary moments, all around us. You just have to know where and how to look for it.
Don't Go Back—Go Forward
So, a time machine would be cool (especially if it’s a DeLorean), but I don’t need to travel back in time to improve my life. Like Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, “What’s past is prologue”—my mistakes have formed the foundation for who I am today.
Now, I focus my energy on learning from my past, enjoying the present, and getting ready for a (hopefully) amazing future.