If you had the chance, would you do things differently?

The book “Replay” means a tremendous amount to me.

My first marriage fell apart in 1987. I moved out of my home into an apartment. It was a time of turmoil. I felt a deep sense of betrayal and an even deeper concern for the plight of my children ages 5 and 7. I had always wanted to be a father— to be the dad I wished I had — and now that dream seemed to be turning into a nightmare.

As I often have done in times of deep stress, I searched for understanding of how and why I found myself in this situation. I went to the local library and found a newly published book by Ken Grimwood called “Replay”. This book gave me a perspective on what was happening to me.

Here is an Amazon description of the book: “Jeff Winston was 43 and trapped in a tepid marriage and a dead-end job, waiting for that time when he could be truly happy, when he died.

And when he woke he was 18 again, with all his memories of the next 25 years intact. He could live his life again, avoiding the mistakes, making money from his knowledge of the future, seeking happiness.

Until he dies at 43 and wakes up back in college again…”

This book has a similar theme to the movie “Groundhog Day” which appeared in movie theaters in 1993.

As I read the book, I wondered how my life would have turned out had I been like Jeff Winston, knowing the future. I certainly would have made different decisions; most would be better. But one of the joys of my life, my children, would never have come into existence, and that would have brought me great pain and regret. Jeff Winston experienced some of the same feelings at the loss of his daughter who would never have been born.

Each time Jeff Winston came back, he made different choices that brought different results. Since he knew the future, he knew how to make money quickly by betting on the World Series where he already knew who won and who lost. He had a greater range of options as a result.

He chose different careers. He became involved with different women with whom he developed close relationships. He got to experiment with “What if?” questions.

The book caused me to reflect on my life. I came to realize that the major mistakes I had made were based mainly upon ignorance. I simply didn’t know I didn’t know.

How could I use the self-reflection from the book’s story to rebuild my life on a more rational and better informed basis?

One of the things I realized was that I needed to develop more and deeper relationships. If I knew more people, I would have a broader more objective base to make decisions. Rather than making decisions based upon my own limited knowledge level, I could get my friends’ reactions based upon their life experiences. The more feedback I got, the higher the likelihood I would make better decisions. I realized that I had copied my father’s example of not being open to my feelings and thoughts. He had grown up in a time when the ideal man was the strong, silent type. That approach wasn’t working for me.

This realization was not easy for me. It took a great deal of work to come out of my shell and become vulnerable to others. I had to take risks because only with vulnerability comes intimacy.

Later in my life I became fascinated with Stephen Covey’s books: “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” They reinforced Grimwood’s invitation to reflect on your actions, but Covey added a series of principles that gave me a framework to make good decisions.

Covey’s books pointed to the principle that we need to “plan with end in mind.” Jeff Winston had that incentive because each time he came back as himself, he knew what his future held. He was going to have a heart attack at age 43 and then come back as a younger self, each time coming closer to age 43. This reality forced him to focus on what was and was not important. He also changed his lifestyle to avoid dying. With the help of education and by changing his habits and behaviors, he was able to avoid his heart attack and live out the rest of his life far happier and healthier.

I recommend Grimwood’s “Replay” mainly because self-reflection is one of the keys to a happy life. It’s also a lot easier to think about your life from reading a book than by making decisions based solely on your own thoughts.

I’ve still made mistakes, but because I now have a broader perspective and a caring support group, so I’m able to make corrections more quickly. I have a good marriage and close relationships with my children and grandchildren. That’s thanks in part to Grimwood’s “Replay.”

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