The "what-if"-game and thinking of possible scenarios of what could have been, is one of my most hated exercises. There are not many things I consider a complete waste of time because I believe that there is a lesson in pretty much everything. However, playing through "what-if"-scenarios is one of those few things. What many fail to realize is that "what-ifs" create more questions without providing any answers.
There is a difference between thinking about the decisions you've made to learn from mistakes and draw conclusions to make better choices in the future, and thinking about what could have possibly happened if you would have made a different choice. If you would have turned left instead of right. If you would have said "yes" instead of "no" or "no" instead of yes. If you would have walked away instead of staying. If you would have accepted that offer instead of turning it down. And the list could go on forever.
There is really not a lot of value in this because of two things:
#1 You cannot turn back the hands of time to change the decision you've already made.
#2 You will never know for certain what the outcome of a different decision would have been.
My question therefore, "Why spend your time thinking about something you cannot change anymore?"
And the worst aspect of this exercise is when you add regret to the mix. Often these two go hand in hand. As you play through different scenarios in your mind, regret usually shows up without you even noticing it. Regretting things that you cannot change anymore will only make you miserable. Rather, you could you use this time to think about what you could do now to alter the effects in the presence of a possibly bad decision you made in the past.
Fact is, decisions are a part of life. They cannot be avoided and shouldn't be. Even if you think you're dodging a decision by not making one, that is already a decision in itself. Some people have everything taken away from them including the ability to choose, so having the freedom of making your own choices is actually a blessing. The most amazing, at the same time scariest, part of decision-making is that we cannot predict how the choices we've made will affect the future. We have to make those decisions going in blind and in faith. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Don't focus on the what could have been but on what is. The questions you should ask yourself are: "Where am I now?" and "How can I move forward from here?". Don't wallow in regret but learn from your mistakes and do better in the future.