- Someday Lesson: For every path we take we choose not to take other paths and create regrets and a series of what-if’s.
Ask anyone who’s happy and they’ll likely tell you they have no regrets. They’ll most likely even pull out the line “If it weren’t for my past I wouldn’t be who I am today and because of that I couldn’t change a thing.”
I’ve arranged my life to more or less be exactly as I want it. I’ve made a lifetime of choices that have led me to this place. There’s almost nothing I’d change (other than having more money).
And yet, I regret many things in my life.
Recently went to see a production of Mamma Mia and it brought back childhood memories of wanting to perform in musicals. If only I had spoken up as an 8-year-old about my desire to take dance and vocal classes! Instead I let the gender rules of a hockey town crush the desire.
Understandable at eight, but my inability to face confrontation and my need to hang my happiness on other people lasted until quite recently and crushed not only this dream of musical theatre but many other dreams as well.
Then there’s my laziness which kept me from applying any passion to my dreams until my late 30s when the alarm on my biological clock went off saying “If not now, when?”
At forty, I’m finally willing to accept success instead of running away from the work it takes to create that success. And so I regret all the starts I made with so few finishes.
I look at my siblings and many of my peers with their well paying lifestyles, beautiful houses and the ability buy what they want when the want it and I regret not having chosen a more lucrative life path (or at least starting my current path at least a decade ago).
My life is full of many other little regrets as well.
- I regret snapping at my boyfriend on the weekend just because I had a headache.
- I regret the sandwich I had for breakfast yesterday when I know what does nasty things to me.
- And I regret wasting an hour this morning watching America’s Top Model instead of working on marketing.
Everyone has regrets. For every choice we make, every path we choose, we choose not to take other paths. The faster life gets and the faster we make decisions, the more likely we’ll end up regretting a decision or two.
We also end up regretting those decisions when make choices without conscious thought, by letting fear stop us from choosing what we really want, or through laziness and a desire to avoid work that lead us to put off our dreams.
Before continuing to read this article, take a moment to think about your own regrets – the big ones and the little ones. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What choices have you made in your life due to thoughtlessness?
- When did you let fear dominate your decisions?
- Have you ever let the effort required to achieve a dream stop you from starting or from finishing things?
(And if you really want to explore your regrets in detail, don’t just think about them, write them down!)
Done? Good, let’s continue…
Using Regrets As Motivation
It’s okay to regret. There are countless movies and books that explore the idea of what-if. Anyone with even an ounce of imagination plays that game at some point.
Anyone who says they regret nothing is lying. They might not let their regrets affect their level of happiness, but they still feel regrets, even little ones.
Regrets can actually be good for you – and act as motivation for your current dreams. And when you feel pressured for time on choices or decisions, remembering what choices you’ve regretted in the past can help you make regret-free choices quickly in the moment.
Let’s take each one of my regrets and see how they can help me now.
I regret not standing up for my creative desires as a child: in another thirty years I don’t want to look back at my life and say that I regret not pursuing my writing, so I pursue it now.
I regret not having the strength to deal with confrontation: if pursuing my happiness means confrontation, then I don’t just accept the confrontation – I embrace it because it takes me closer to my dreams.
I regret hanging my happiness on others rather than finding it within: by seeing how unhappy relying on others for my happiness made me, any time I slip back into bad habits I can use this sense of regret to propel me back into developing new (and healthier) habits.
I regret avoiding working hard to achieve success: I don’t want to lose any more dreams due to laziness, so daily commit to the work it takes to achieve my version of success.
I regret not choosing a more lucrative life path: that’s just not me – I’m working on my dreams right now, and that’s enough. Even if the money doesn’t come, I’ll be happy.
By firmly putting my regrets in the past and using them to change my actions in the present to reach my future dreams, I’m creating progress and success.
Plus, when I’m aware of my regrets I don’t allow myself to make thoughtless or fear-filled dreams and I give myself a kick in the butt to get to work instead of lazing about.
We are not our pasts and our actions in the moment are what matter, but we can use the less than stellar past choices to make sure that every choice we make right now is exactly what we want and takes us closer to our dreams.
No matter how fast the choices are zooming past.