A Lesson in Regret

June 30, 2016


     Someone once asked me if I regretted any of my decisions in the past; and I answered in confidence that I did not.  The next question posed was "How can you not regret anything you've done, especially if it hurt other people." I had to pause for a second but eventually answered, "There is a difference between regret and remorse - of course I am remorseful for my actions." At that point, that person did not understand what I was saying and she was actually annoyed with me.  Many people cannot discern the difference between regret and remorse. Though similar and may overlap they are completely different in nature.  Today, I will write about regret and I will address about remorse in another post. 

    Regret is an internal emotion about a specific a decision we made (or not made).  This is true, when the decision affects particularly ourselves. Choosing between colleges, attending an event or not, taking a trip or not, are all examples that we can go either left or right in our paths. Unfortunately, looking back is always clearer than looking forward; hence the adage 'hind sight is 20-20.' The regret of not choosing one path versus another is the most common feeling. The problem with this is that no matter which path we take, as humans, we will always question the path not taken.  It is very simple to accept and make decisions when we know all the variables, outcomes, and challenges - but that is never the case. No matter what decision you make, you will always ask yourself if you made the right one - and of course you will never know - hence you start to second guess yourself and regret sets in. This is why it is important to learn to let go of regret.  I will not say NEVER TO REGRET; what I will say is DON'T LIVE IN REGRET.  


     Too many people spend too much time regretting the decisions they made. When we worry about the IF's, then we forget to look at the WHAT's. Looking at the IF's will only lead to resentment, sorrow, and discontentment. Yes, I agree, we all can have better. But what happens when you reach that better? Will you want more and more? It is a perpetual spiraling need to always want better or more.  Instead, spend the time appreciating what you have now, and enjoy it - as you never know when it will be gone. This is learning not to regret the path taken.


    What about the decisions we didn't make? This is how I see it: If  you have to choose between an action of discomfort or an inaction of comfort - and you choose the inaction of comfort, then yes you will always regret that choice.  Why would anyone choose the latter? The answer is quite simply - fear!  In my opinion it is always better to take an unknown path, if that is truly what your heart desires. Of course, this should be done with careful consideration and not in careless abandon.  To live a full life is to take chances.  It is true about how we only truly regret the chances we didn't take. When you decide to take the inaction of comfort, then the only thing you can really do is learn from that feeling of regret; in the hopes that you will take that action of discomfort the next time around. This is learning from regret to avoid regret.


    In either case, you must learn not to let regret overcome you. Instead, let it guide your next decision as you learn and grow from every experience.    No one truly knows if we made the right decisions in life. Everyone struggles with this so you are not alone. In the end there really is no right or wrong decision - some are just better than others. And it is up to you to make the best of it! 











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