I often ask people what their goals are in life, and I’ve noticed a trend of people saying that they want to “live with no regrets.” That phrase has a ring to it. I think all of us would agree that a life with no regrets sounds like a life worth living. It gives off a sense of adventure and risk. It inspires us to live the life we’ve always dreamed of and encourages us to pursue our passions with reckless abandon… doesn’t it?
In reality, it seems that those who attempt to live with no regrets are often petrified with indecision. Instead of accomplishing something, they spend their life trying to avoid accomplishing nothing. By design, living a life of risk implies the possibility of failure. In fact, the vast majority of those who have succeeded in life will tell you about the inordinate number of failures that predicated their success.
If that is true, does ‘living with no regrets’ mean we’re afraid of failure?
I think it might.
We are so afraid of failing at life that we try to preempt it. We play it safe, avoid the road less traveled, and hope we can make the right decision every single time along the way. But it’s impossible! So we fail. Then we beat ourselves up because we regret the decisions we made that ultimately led to failure. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t have regrets… FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!
But I think there’s another way of looking at it. To be fair, the mantra of ‘no regrets’ is one I subscribe to as well. HOWEVER, I apply it in a PAST tense rather than a FUTURE one. Let me explain.
When we look back at decisions we’ve made, we are forced to choose. Are we happy about those decisions or do we regret them? Since avoiding mistakes is impossible, this question inevitably leads to regret. But there’s a third option that must be addressed — have we LEARNED from the decision? Whether we made the right decision or not, what did we learn from it? By approaching our decisions from this perspective, we free ourselves to act now, learn later, and essentially eliminate the regret option.
I live with no regrets because I DECIDE to… not because I don’t make the same mistakes other people do. Instead of regretting a decision, I DECIDE to learn from it and apply it to the future.
Is the mantra of ‘no regrets’ actually paralyzing you from making decisions? Or is it empowering you to learn from the past and never regret it?
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