Guys – a cornucopia of unfulfilled promise and potential. There are moments we spend reflecting on what could have been. If we hadn’t quit the football team or hadn’t gotten hurt – we could’ve played in the NFL. If we had chosen a different career path – we could be better off financially today.

There are moments we spend time reminiscing. They can be moments reflecting on what happened in our past that shaped us into the people we are today. Our experiences from childhood to becoming teenagers and ultimately coming into our own in adulthood mean a great deal. Sometimes our reminiscing is a means to get to a happy place. Sometimes we do it when we are in a situation where it pops in our mind because we are in a space where we are reminded of it.  But at what point does it become too much?

Is it worse to spend time reminiscing about things of your past or opportunities that were missed? How many times do you think about an ex? Or do you spend time pondering a lost opportunity to be with a female you were once interested in?

I am by no means suggesting that moments of reflection are not without merit. What I am saying is that those moments have their place. The question is: what place are they for you and does that place prevent you from moving forward?

Some guys have that Al Bundy mentality. They stay drowning in what used to be or what could have been. You scored four touchdowns in a game in high school and dated the head cheerleader – you were hot. But now what? Are you like Al Bundy – working at a shoe store, married to a chain smoking wife with two less than productive kids. Would you have done better for yourself if you had the let the past be the past instead of reveling in it every time you need an ego boost?

Let’s take it a step further. Most of us have been interested in more than one person in our lifetime. If you were one of the fortunate few who met the love of your life in school and are still together – congratulations. This isn’t for you. This is for everyone else.

You met someone who blew your mind. You connected with them in a way that is incredibly difficult to explain. Even to this day – the thought of them makes you smile. But for whatever reason – you didn’t hook up with them. What did that experience do for you then? More expressly, what does it do for you now?

One would be willing to bet that moment sticks with you more than you may realize. It opened a door to the possibility of something bigger. It makes you search for the same feeling that mind blowing experience gave you. You came to understand that you wouldn’t settle for less. All seems good until you realize reality – that there is no getting that back and comparing any future occurrence to that initial experience borders on unrealistic and unfair.

What if you haven’t been fair to those who’ve come your way since because you hadn’t put that mind blowing experience in its proper place? Where does it leave you now? Has it cost you more opportunities at another experience that could have been greater or better for you in the long run?

One of the biggest errors we make as guys is comparing someone to an ex like comparing Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson or Tom Brady to Joe Montana. There is no comparison. Those moments in time are what they were and should be appreciated as such. If those moments rose our expectations of what we want for ourselves – great; but it is only truly great if we find a way to appreciate those moments without compromising what could be. Judging someone on their merit is important – especially because they have nothing to do with our ex or past.

It is important not to make the mistake a lot of single women make. For emphasis sake in this piece – single women are not just those who are unattached but also those who are in relationships but not fully committed because they are seeking something better and will walk out as soon as they think “better” is right in front of them. You cannot spend time locked in the past good or bad and expect to recreate the mind blowing experiences you once shared with someone with an entirely new person. Worse yet – if you’re in a relationship that does not have your total commitment because you’re waiting for something better – who are you ultimately hurting? You’d be almost surprised about the experiences you can have when you aren’t wasting time looking for or at something else.

Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls but owns the Charlotte Hornets. One of the best parts of owning the Hornets and not owning the Bulls is that he gets a chance to create an identity almost completely separate from his playing days. Imagine if every day he went to work as the Hornets owner trying to relive or recreate the moments from his playing days with Bulls – how successful would he be as the owner? Would the organization thrive under those circumstances? Not likely. His success as an owner has very little to do with his playing days. The tie that binds is the drive for success – but the routes are completely different.

The same principle applies to moving forward from the best that never was. Your feelings in a current relationship or that you got from that previous mind blowing experience are not related – but it doesn’t mean that you can’t get them. It just means that you have to find a way to allow yourself to see what is in front you – not what once was or what could have been.

We can’t allow the best that never was to wreck the possibility of the best that could be. As hard as it may be to swallow – the best that never was couldn’t have been all of that. If it were – it wouldn’t be “never was”. So don’t let yourself get caught up in that. Otherwise, you’ll be sitting around at the shoe store where you work telling anyone who’ll listen about the time you scored four touchdowns in one game…

A man's deepest fear shouldn't be that he's inadequate; it should be that he is not pushing himself to be what he is meant to be - Max

  • Orlando Lopez

    Wow, my girl and I just broke up and it really stings. Reading this really helps with perspective, even though the pain still lingers. Thanks for writing this it really helps.

    • Maxwell W. Styles

      Orlando, Thanks for reading and commenting. I am sorry to hear about your break up. While I don’t know the specifics, I can tell you that the pain while fresh won’t last forever. I think the main thing is to focus on what you learned in the relationship and how you are a better man as a result. If you can do that, it’ll help the process of self reflection and more expressly, healing. Take care, Maxwell.

      P.S. This may help you some: