Is It Possible To Live A Life Without Regret?
I started to title this "How To Live A Life Without Regret" and then thought better of it. That would, in fact, be a false advertisement.
A bait and switch tactic if you will. Because anyone clicking on the article would then expect me to tell them how to do something that I certainly haven't been able to do, nor believe is possible.
If you are human and have lived past puberty, then you most certainly have had a regret or two dozen.
Many regrets start as a fork in the road. You have choices. In careers, partners, friendships, lifestyle pursuits. The paths you pick lead you on a journey that no other person but you could take. It's your own personal life trajectory.
Regret is a curious emotion. It basically means you wish you could go back in time and make a different decision because the one you did make didn't turn out quite the way you wanted. But none of us can see into the future, so the outcome was something we pictured in our minds. It wasn't necessarily based on facts or reality.
The truth is, you could have made a different decision, but had a much worse conclusion than the one you are concerned with now. It's a waste of precious time and energy to look backward and play the 'what if' game.
Every decision, choice, and action has molded you. Impacted you. Created the person reading this article right now. You have learned, grown, adapted, and overcome. Instead of viewing your struggles through the lens of regret, focus your attention on the strong, resourceful, and wiser version of yourself.
With all that being said, there are still some simple ways to limit the number and degree of regrets in your life.
You can actively work towards a Regret Reduction Philosophy.
Use Wise Consideration
While flipping a coin might be a good way to determine who is going to wash the dishes or go first at Monopoly, it's not the best way to make an important decision.
Put time and homework in. Whether it is a major purchase, career change, or potential move - do your research. There is a wealth of information out there on almost every subject. Don't make a rash play. If whatever it is can't wait for you to be thorough in your investigation, then it probably wasn't the right selection in the first place.
It might sound silly, but a simple Pros vs Cons list is extremely helpful to me. You might be surprised how easily your opinion might change when you are honest about the good and bad points.
Be Mindful Of Your Words
This goes for the things you say and also DON'T say.
Once that confetti can is popped, all those tiny glitter pieces will never fit back inside. And once those words pop out of your mouth, they will never be unheard.
I tell my grandson all the time: You don't have to say everything that comes into your head. Of course, he's 4 years old. He is still working on impulse control. Some of you spout off with that same lack of discipline.
Just because something may be true, doesn't mean it's helpful to state it. And even in the cases where something does need to be said, be mindful of tone, context and surroundings when having the conversation.
Many relationships have crumbled with no hope of healing over careless words. Those kinds of regret are the hardest to accept and move on from.
You can also regret things you don't say.
"I'm Sorry" for example. Yes, it can be humbling. Embarrassing. It can also be healing. Especially if it is true and sincere. An apology is a small chance at a rewind button on a regret.
You can't exactly undo the action or unsay the words, but you could express true remorse and a desire to do better. It's an act of love that few people turn away from.
Speaking of love - don't regret refusing to tell someone "I Love You". It is always a vulnerable position to share your feelings with someone. They may spurn you. Reject you. Not return the sentiment. But the point of saying it is like giving a gift. It's not to receive one in return, but to make the other person feel special, warm, and important.
(I'd like to give one of my famous disclaimers by reminding you the above paragraph is not permission to stalk or pursue someone relentlessly. That's an entirely different subject, and not about love at all.)
Make Sure A Choice (And Then Any Regret) Is Truly Yours
One of the ways we can try to make the best decision is to seek counsel and opinions from friends and family. While this is a good idea, we have to be careful to take their thoughts seriously, but not be coerced into doing what someone else wants.
Even those with the best intentions should not use guilt or pretense of love to manipulate the desired outcome.
Unfortunately, some people just want to have their way and force you into an 'or else' situation. You have the right to your own voice. A bully may be heard if they scream loud enough, but they will never truly be listened to.
You alone must bear the consequences of your decisions, so make sure the choice is completely yours.
Life isn't just about the large decisions. Even the small ones can affect us in big ways.
Every morning your Mini Choice-O-Meter resets itself. While you can't undo major decisions at the drop of a hat, there are some different choices you can make with each new day.
You can choose to start your day with prayer and meditation. You can choose to eat better. You can choose to be kinder, more tolerant, or helpful.
You can put your physical and mental health as a priority and practice self-care.
Unhealthy habits can be reversed and course correction implemented.
Taking care of your whole self will put in you a much better position of avoiding many personal regrets.
My Hopefuls, I do not believe it is possible to live a life without regret. But we can limit their number and their impact.
Choose to believe you are a better/wiser/kinder person for the experiences you have endured.
Choose to accept the mistakes with grace.
Choose to live each day with confidence and strength in who you are in this world.
You are not the sum of your failures. Or your successes.
You are complete, whole, and worthy in spite of and because of the choices you have made.
If you do feel regret, let it be fleeting. Be kind to yourself. Move on.
Hope With Abandon