As someone who is big on perseverance and short on decision making skills, I am occasionally at risk of over-investing in some areas of life to the detriment of others. When we invest in any aspect of life we are hoping for a return and if we don’t get one it leaves us hungry. It’s hard to think straight when you’re hungry. So how do you decide if or when to stop?
Asking if you knew then what you know now, would you still do it? can help to provide enough distance and objectivity to see a situation more clearly and possibly make a tough decision. For anyone who has invested a lot of money, time or energy into any important or long term endeavor jumping ship or even just scaling back is going to be a huge or maybe even impossible task. Sometimes we are simply committed. If you are 7 months pregnant you might think ‘if I knew then!!’ but there’s only one real way to go...
If you think to yourself if you knew then what you know now, it removes you from the immediate situation and that can be helpful. This isn’t about you, this is about someone you know very well, someone with the same name as you who is very like you. But that person is in the past so you can discuss that person in the same detached tone you might chat about your neighbor or a mutual friend.
So if you knew then what you know now, would you do it?
- If you knew then that renovating that house would cost all your savings and it still isn’t finished now 6 years later, would you buy it now?
- If you knew then how much you dislike traveling by plane now, would you have done anything differently?
It can help to clarify which parts are worthwhile and which are not and then it’s easier to decide what's to be done. The overall answer might be positive.
- For example, if I knew then what I know now about renovating a house I would have hired a project manager. Now I can’t afford one and I am miserable in this house. It’s probably time to cut my losses and sell.
- Or, if I knew then what I know now about having a long distance relationship, would I have relocated? No, but I would have arranged to work remotely and stayed for longer while I was there, and that’s what I’m going to do now.
A real life one is that I frequently wonder if I should return to the UK and then when I asked myself if I knew then what I know now about living in The Netherlands would I come here again? The answer is absolutely yes.
If you are facing a potentially life changing decision, pick a time when you feel calm and first try to picture it as a whole – not just the dreamy beginning, the drudgery of the middle or the horrors of right now.
Think about how you spent your time, how it made you feel, who you met, where you were, the highs, the lows and the ordinary Wednesdays. Then ask yourself and maybe discuss with a friend, if you knew then what you know now, would you do it again?
If yes the message is clear. Everything is going to be ok.
If the answer is a resolute no, then whether you realize it or not, you are probably about to start an exit plan (if you haven’t started already).
Many of us mildly suffer from being in a comfortably stressful or unsatisfactory situation. A job which is not awful and not great, a friendship that’s not as fun as it once was, an ok apartment in an ok area. Put a pause on complaining and seriously take a moment to consider the whole picture. Your exit might turn into a re-entry with the benefit of a little hindsight. What then? What now?
Whilst a dear friend of mine was unfurling her telescopic cane she said ‘If I’d done Pilates in my 50’s I probably wouldn’t be having these problems now’ and ever since I’ve been trying to strengthen my core muscles! It’s not just what we know now; it’s what others know too… It’s very useful to ask for advice and listen to the ones we love, including our past and current selves.
So what would you do, if you knew then what you know now?
Co-founder, The Clean Sheet