Regret Is Not Your Friend
There are two sides to regret.
The first side involves regret for actions or events we wish had not happened and we would like to take back. We have all said or done things we regret. We may get upset and say things that damage our relationships or we may do things that cause harm. For example, Tiger Woods may regret his unfaithful conduct in his marriage.
I have done many things over my life that I regret, from investing in a scam to getting involved in a risky business venture to help out a friend. However, my regrets are now infrequent. Why? I took the time to identify the main causes of my actions and rooted them out. I had to learn to take responsibility for my contribution to my own troubles and to make values-based decisions, conducting myself in way that leaves little room for regret.
What about you? Think about the times when you felt regret. Is there a common theme? Do behaviors or habits contribute to your regret? What new thoughts or action steps could reduce your feelings of regret for the things you have said or done?
For the most part, the first type of regret can be tempered by time.
The second side of regret involves regret for actions not taken. This is the sin of omission. We must take this side of regret even more seriously because we cannot alter time to retrieve things that were missed: the job we did not take, the investment we ignored, or the opportunity we let pass by. The list can be long.
When I achieved the milestone birthday of 50 years, I felt a greater sense of urgency about all the things I wanted to do, despite my plan to live to 100+. I knew that it was my time to take action.
With keen awareness that mortality is universal and nonnegotiable, I want to encourage every individual reading this article to take a stand:
“Starting today, I will live my life without regret, especially as it pertains to activities I want to experience and outcomes I wish to realize in my life.”
Here are a few areas you might wish to consider avoiding missing out on (and then later regretting):
- Attending your child’s recital or concert
- Beginning a regular fitness program
- Traveling to that place you have been dreaming about for years
- Taking that course to upgrade your skills—perhaps even getting the degree you have been contemplating
- Trying a new food
- Taking time for yourself
- Quitting a job you hate
- Calling a friend to share coffee or lunch
- Attending the presentation or concert of someone (or group) you enjoy
- Writing the article, poem, or book you’ve had percolating for ages
- Joining the community group you’ve been thinking about
Unless material goods are directly linked to what you want to do or become, please don’t focus on them here. Yes, you can keep a list of the “things” you want to own, but putting a new painting on your wall may not be as meaningful as taking a vacation and having quality time with your family.
When have you said, “If only I had…?” Think about it for a moment. What do you wish you had done or become? What are you going to do about it? At this point, remorse won’t get you where you want to go; forward action will. Forget your excuses and make a decision to live your life without regret.
A research study conducted on individuals over 70 years of age asked participants these questions:
“If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently? What do you regret?”
The responses showed the following results:
- They would take more time for themselves.
- How many times have we met people who dedicated their whole life to others, at the expense of their own needs and goals?
- They would take more risks.
- This is the “if only” part of regret. “If only I had bought the property, taken that job, said ‘no’ to…” and on the story goes.
- They would dedicate themselves to a cause or purpose that would last beyond their lifetime.
- What’s your legacy? What will you be remembered for? Will you even be remembered at all?
A life lived without regret is living on purpose and making a difference, whatever the context. How do you rank yourself on a scale of 1 to 10? [1 = Poor (plenty of regret); 10 = Excellent (little or no regret)]
Let’s all strive to be as close to 10 as we can in all areas of our lives! Start now. No regrets, please!
- List events in the past that have caused you to experience the most regret.
Is there a common theme or set of situations where regret is recurring for you? What do you think the root cause(s) might be? What can you do to reduce your regret?
- Think about all the things you regret not
What are your reasons for not taking action—lack of courage, not feeling worthy, compromising your values for others, etc.?
- Make a list of things you can start doing immediately to reduce your regrets.
Don’t make excuses for what you can’t do. Focus on what you can and will
- Make a commitment to follow your list of actions.
- Move on with confidence.
- Confirm your passions and connect with your purpose to reduce your regrets.
- Read my newest book, The Quest For Purpose. It will take you on a personal journey of discovery to help you confirm and affirm your passions in life.
- Benchmark your gifts, talents, and passions by using CRG’s assessments.
Your results will assist you to establish your beliefs with confidence, and increase your passion in all areas of your life.
Remember, our mortality is guaranteed. To those of you who are still procrastinating, I suggest you get started with your no-regrets philosophy this very moment. When you have no regrets, then you are truly living On Purpose!