Life is very similar in nature to a marathon. It’s long, arduous, often exhilarating, always exhausting, but ultimately rewarding.
However, you would never back track during a marathon to seek a different outcome. You’d never think, I shouldn’t have walked during that water station at mile 9, so I’m going to go back, and run it instead, to make up some time. You throw down your cup of water, and pick up the pace instead. You wouldn’t back track to the port-o-potty at mile 15, to pass it by a second time, instead of pausing to use it. You may consider skipping the pit stop at mile 20 instead. It would be lunacy, given the already race is 26.2 miles of physical exertion, and time is part of the goal in finishing. You’d never add MORE time, or MORE exertion – by choice.
So why do we insist on doing this in life? Even if it’s only in our minds? Why do we wonder and obsess about how we could have done things differently? Why do we wish for an alternative outcome? That it had turned out differently? It’s already turned out. We revisit old relationships and expect a new dynamic. We turn over past conversations, and wish we’d been quicker on our feet, and retorted with a biting remark. Or worse, that we’d been more honest. We beat ourselves up for saying or doing the wrong thing.
I think some of it has to do with which part of the brain is active during an actual marathon vs. traditional everyday life. During a marathon, any unnecessary part of your body shuts down. If it isn’t relevant to putting one foot in front of the other, it goes on a break. Your heart works, your legs work, your arms work, and the survival part of your brain is laser focused on one thing – finishing. Alive. Everything else is superfluous. In real life, we have too much time on our hands, there is no true threat, and the reptilian (fight or flight) portion of the brain needs to find things to survive against. They could be in the past as easily as they could be in the future. But mostly, they are figments that either didn’t happen or are unlikely to happen. Yet, there we are – fighting with these figments. Questioning, wondering, obsessing, worrying.
Maybe instead, we ask ourselves – what can I do right now to affect the rest of the race?
And remember (as the song says) …the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.