I am willing to bet you have heard or read about the philosophy of ‘living with no regrets’. Maybe you even saw that hilarious movie where the less then intelligent teenager has “NO RAGRETS” tattooed on his chest for the world to see. Here’s the thing about living with no regrets: It’s impossible.
You cannot live a week without regrets… if you are a decent human being that is. I regret an email I sent out of angry reaction last week, I regret missing a few meals during the week, I regret not getting to bed early enough and having to live the next day on coffee. I regret being so busy on Friday that I didn’t get a workout in. I regret setting up my world so that I work so much, I don’t get to see my family as often as I would like.
So does that make me a failure?
I don’t think so, I think it reminds me that I still care. If I didn’t regret any of that stuff, I would be a fat, lazy bum and my five-year-old would be raised without me.
Today I had no time left to do all the work in front of me. We went to Edmonton to visit family, and although we meant to be home by 2 p.m., it was 5:30 p.m. before we got here. We made that choice out of ‘predicted regret’. I predicted, that if we didn’t make some time for family, I would regret it later. So we stayed longer and it was wonderful. Yes, that had some consequences to it, but because of the healthy ‘regret avoidance’ system I have in place, I made a choice to do what mattered to me and our family.
I am also not feeling well today, pretty tired and my body is clearly fighting something off. With huge deadlines and a long night in front of me, I spent an hour with my son, building Lego that he got from his cousins for his upcoming birthday. I knew that too would come with a cost, but I chose which regret I wanted to live with tomorrow. The regret of not playing with my son, or the regret of working until 2 a.m. There was no option for a zero regret path; I chose the regret I preferred.
This is why living with no regrets is impossible.
Life is not perfect. Far from it. And there is magic in that too. How we choose to live, how we choose to pick the things we do and do not do, that is the juice that makes life interesting and us who we are.
Here’s the big thing about regret: Understand that you are the architect of your life, and you decide in all moments which path you choose. Yes, I listed a day where both choices had consequences, so I chose the one I preferred. There was no complaining about the two choices (well… maybe a little), and that is the challenge. Accept what is there, and make a choice. That is what they talk about when they say live a live without regrets. It is about choosing to not being a victim, tossed around by ‘mean old life’. It is about making choices with whatever is in front of you. If you sent an email out of anger, contact the person and apologize, own those feelings. If you didn’t eat well today, choose to do better tomorrow. (Unless you have a time machine, in which case, I would like to borrow it).
Your task: Make a list of things that you typically regret doing. Make another list of things that if you don’t do, you will regret later. Now make a plan to come from a place of choice for those things, and set yourself up to win!
Live life with as few regrets as possible.