If you could do it again what would you have done differently?

An exercise I find really helpful in regards to self-improvement and learning from the past is to asking the question of myself:

“If you could do it again what would you have done differently?”

Don’t ask that question in the mindset of beating yourself up or to wallow in regret. Ask that question in order to truly look back at a period of time and see what lessons you learned from it and make decisions on how you want to incorporate those lessons into your future performance.

That question really makes you think through and evaluate the things that you’ve gone through…it makes you look at the choices you made or the choices you should have made and didn’t, it makes you review the efforts you made or the efforts you didn’t make and wish you had, and it forces you to recognize all the lessons you actually learned from the past experience and it helps you come up with a list of all the things you now know you want to do differently in the future.

If we don’t stop every so often (and I suggest that doing it more frequently rather than less frequently will save you from wasted time where you could have been doing better sooner) then we will never improve as quickly nor as much as we could have. Because life buzzes along so quickly that while our intention is to improve, we get too easily caught up in doing the same-ol’ same-ol’ and we continue doing things we would have otherwise changed if we had really take the time to consider it.

Take your work life for example. When you start a new job you have passion and excitement and you are eager to learn. The more time that passes the more you find reasons to complain or get frustrated and left unchecked you can become completely miserable in your job. But if at the end of each workday you had taken just a moment to ask yourself “If I could do it again what would I have done differently?”  and write down the things you want to different from now, just think of the incredibly positive impact that would have on your performance and success at work.

Or take a marriage for example. When you meet and fall in love you spend all kinds of quality time together being romantic. Then you get married and the kids come along and work life gets busier and you get into the routine of skipping date night because there was too much going on. Then one day a few years into it you look at your spouse and realize you’ve hardly spoken to each other let alone had a romantic date together. If every few months you look back and ask yourselves as a couple, “If we could do it again what would we have done differently?” you would notice that had you spent more quality time together you would feel closer to one another and you would have grown more as a couple.  Then you could change your behavior sooner than later. The more frequently you take time to ask the question the faster your marriage will improve.

None of us want to be dumb enough to keep repeating the same mistakes in our lives because that will take us nowhere. So be sure and take time to ask yourself:

“If I could do it again what would I have done differently?”

Then be sure and use the answers to make yourself smarter tomorrow than you were today and yesterday! Have a great one everyone!

~Amy Rees Anderson


  • Heather Vogeley says:

    This is difficult to do, but we you are right, that we have to do make these assessments. I was who I was in the past. Hindsight is 20/20, as “they” say. I have regrets and wish I had done differently, but growth has happened since then, mainly from making those incorrect choices. I completely agree with you that we try to learn all we can from those regrets and pray for help to not make those same mistakes when we are confronted with similar situations. That is what I LOVE about the atonement. Jesus Christ made it safe to make mistakes, not be damned by them, but learn. We can recover and become better, to the point of perfection.

    I had a huge one. Heavenly Father tried to guide me to the right eternal companion, but I refused to believe that I was good enough for the guy (low self esteem). So, I refused to believe it and walked away. The opportunity is lost. BUT the next time I get a similar message from Heavenly Father I am going to ask him to help me believe it and take a leap of faith.

    I wish I could go back, but I would make the same mistake – if I couldn’t go back with the knowledge and understanding that I have now.

  • Jane says:

    I love how you tell us to review constructively, not to beat ourselves up. Great advice to use the question in our personal lives as well as work.

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