Living with regret

Statistically, these are the things people most often regret.

Show me someone who says they have no regrets, and I’ll show you someone who denies their feelings in order to adhere to a widely-held perception that regret is foolish.

It seems so common for people to say they have (or strive to have) no regrets, and it’s become a pet peeve of mine. The explanation is always the same too: even if a decision wasn’t the right one, you learn a lesson from it, and therefore you shouldn’t regret it. Either that or they believe that everything happens for a reason, so any decision—bad or good—was the right one because it led to where you are today.

Why are we so afraid to have regret? Wishing that you’d made a different decision doesn’t mean you can’t still appreciate the lesson you learned. Recognizing that different actions might have resulted in a better outcome doesn’t mean you can’t be content with your life as it is.

I, for one, know that I have regrets. I know that my life would have gone in a completely different (and maybe more desirable) direction if my decisions had changed at a few key moments. However, I also know that you play the cards that are dealt, and I can’t change the past, but I can steer my future.

I recently listened to a TED Talk by Kathryn Schulz where she talked about this exact thing, and it was satisfying to hear someone articulate a belief that I’ve held for so long.

“If we have goals and dreams, and we want to do our best. And if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them… We need to learn to love the flawed imperfect things that we create and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we know we can do better.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.


~ by izikoosumohdum on April 17, 2012.

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