A feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have no regrets? I regret having three big, greasy pieces of pizza for lunch, six pieces of nigiri and a beer as an appetizer that I intended to be dinner, but found wasn’t enough, so then spicy Indian food for dinner half an hour later. But, as with everything in life, there’s definitely a lesson to be learned there!
Life is really a collection of mistakes and bad decisions, when you think about it. You’ve got a fifty/fifty chance of making every decision right. Or wrong. And, really, what was the wrong decision when you made it, might be the right decision if made at another moment in time, or by another person. There is really no way to know for certain which decisions will turn out to be regrettable. Okay, stepping out in front of a speeding Greyhound bus is almost always a bad decision, granted. But I’d doubt you’d regret it, simply because you would no longer be capable of regret.
Most people, when asked if they would do it all over again, go back and relive their lives and make different choices, roll their eyes, shake their heads and say, “no way, it was too exhausting the first time.” An interesting question; do you have so many regrets that you’d do it all over again, the right way? If you were able to go back, or just rewind, and change some key decisions, do you really think you’d be in a better position than you are now? I kind of don’t think so, I don’t know for certain, but I’ll hazard a guess. But I’m no Marty McFly.
I honestly think that every decision we make, and the resulting consequence, is by design and has led us to the exact point in life we need to be. Now. Without mistakes, without regrettable decisions, we would have learned far less about ourselves and about our world. If life was all perfection and rainbows and chocolate bon bons, we would all be numb, stupid twits. Guaranteed.
They key is to live each day, make decisions, right and wrong, deal with the consequences, good or bad, learn something, and carry on. Without regrets. Life is meant to be lived without regret. Mistakes and bad decisions are just part of the deal, so deal with them, learn from them and move on.
I don’t regret the bad decisions, the mistakes I made, as a teen. I don’t regret allowing myself to succumb to peer pressure. I don’t regret drinking. I don’t regret being dishonest and staying out all night with my friends. I don’t regret the times we snuck off to San Francisco or Sacramento. I don’t regret the pranks we pulled. I don’t regret getting caught. These were all decisions I made, I deserved the consequences and I learned many valuable lessons that have been applicable many times over in my adulthood. At the very least, I knew exactly what my kids were up to! Of course, those teen-aged decisions of mine were all “wrong”, but I don’t regret them. I wouldn’t be who I am now had I not made those exact choices, had I not lived that exact life. I like who I am. And boy, do my friends and I have stories to tell!
I don’t regret the poor decisions I made in my twenties. I don’t regret giving up on a good relationship that didn’t seem to be progressing quickly enough. I don’t regret falling into a less than perfect relationship thereafter. I don’t regret the mistakes I made in college, the classes I didn’t work hard in, the grades I neglected, the eleven years it took me to earn a Bachelor’s degree. I don’t regret marrying a man who didn’t love me the way I wanted him to. I don’t regret staying in a marriage for far longer than I should have because I thought it would be easier on our kids to grow up in a home where there were two parents who didn’t love each other than in a single parent home in the war zone of a bitter custody battle I’m certain would have ensued. I wouldn’t know my strength, my tenacity, I wouldn’t have such a keen appreciation for true love now had I not had those experiences then.
I don’t regret compromising my career and working only part time in order to raise my kids after school, to participate in their young lives the only opportunity I’d ever have. Those years flew by in a breath, but I was there, I was part of it. I don’t regret taking the chance on buying a ranch that was impossible to keep when fortunes turned, for the opportunity to live in the country in one of the most beautiful places in the world, if only for a period of time. I don’t regret the friendships that have come and gone. I don’t regret leaving “good” jobs that left me stressed to the point of illness or feeling taken advantage of to the point of self-loathing. Each of these decisions, though perhaps seen as unwise, left my life much richer than had I not made them. Regret? No, in fact, I am forever grateful for those “poor” decisions!
I’m sure many of my friends, family and acquaintances look at my life, at all that has occurred, and consider me a fool, silly, stupid even, for some of the chances I’ve taken that ended in what they’d consider disaster. I’m sure many have looked on in wonderment, or perhaps, even, horror, calling my life a folly. In fact, I have not a single regret, I knew the risks when I took those chances, I have lived lifestyles most people have only ever seen on television. I have had experiences people can’t even begin to imagine. I remember in college being touted as the one who “dared to be different”. I was always proud of that. I do dare. I am different.
For anyone who pities me for the consequences of my daring decisions, the crazy chances I’ve taken, for my follies, I, in turn, pity them, for not embracing life, for settling for a cookie cutter life, living in the same suburban neighborhood with cracking sidewalks and dry rotted decks, in the same drab house with leaves in the gutters that need tending to, with the same dusty trinkets on all the same flat surfaces. The only variation in life is the new array of television shows and the fact that they can record multiple shows, simultaneously, to numb their minds with later. Perhaps they don’t have regrets, yet, because their life has gone “according to plan”. Is a life according to plan, eventually, regrettable? I’ll hazard a guess. Yes. “Well, here we are, at the end of our plan. We have the planned amount of money in our well-tended retirement account, now we can afford that really nice assisted living compound and those little scooter chairs. I get the red one.”
We’re all going to arrive at the same finish line, sooner or later. We all get buried in the same dirt. The follies others see in my life, in fact, have given me far more clarity and wisdom than any life lived “according to plan”, and I cherish that. My varied lifestyles and experiences have given me a life perspective few have, a perspective I covet. The difficulties others see that I have endured have left me with the confidence and sheer will and determination I can use to conquer anything I set my mind to. Bonus. I have no regrets, and because I have no regrets, I am living in the present. I know bliss.
The thing with regrets, if you look at the definition of the word, they pertain to the past. We don’t live in the past. We can’t change the past. There is no value in thinking about the past. We’ve made decisions, some good, some bad, they are in the past, we’ve lived with or are living with the consequences of those decisions, regretting them, or feeling bad about them is in no way going to change them. There is nothing we can do to change what has happened. Simply chalk it all up to experience and get on with life. Life is now, only ever now. If you are not living in the present, you simply put, are not living.
In fact, if you dwell on the past, relive the past, whether you are fondly recalling your glory days or are repentant for previous actions, tasks, deeds and decisions, you are not living in the present. When we are focused on the past we are usually either in a state of depression, or we’re flirting dangerously with it. Just like worry is unnecessary, negative energy focused on future events that causes anxiety, regret is unnecessary and very negative energy focused on the past. Worry will never change the outcome of future events, and likewise, regret will never change the outcome of past events. The only events you can change in any way are the ones happening right now, this very moment. Might I suggest you stay present to affect change?
By applying this simple principle, living in the present, we can effectively remove both depression and anxiety from our life; doesn’t that just sound like bliss? To live in the present is to live without regrets, and to live without worry. Bliss is living in the present, and it does take some practice and a very concerted effort. It is a little harder than it sounds, this living in the present. Some day, maybe on a day off or on one of those rare weekend days when you have no real plans, no pressing commitments or obligations, try just hanging out with yourself. Listen to the running dialogue in your mind; every time you catch yourself thinking about something in the past, redirect your thoughts to the immediate present. Likewise, every time you catch yourself thinking about the future, even later that very day, redirect your thoughts to the immediate moment. Spend a quiet day with yourself, listening and redirecting, sort of get acquainted with the idea and the tendencies your thoughts have to migrate to other time zones. Once you’ve learned to identify the frequency of your tendency to dwell on thoughts past and future, you’ll become more aware of these thoughts during your “normal” days, you can then begin to redirect your thoughts on a regular basis. The result will be amazing; if you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, see if practicing this simple, mindful exercise doesn’t provide some relief. If you don’t suffer from depression and/or anxiety, I’ll bet you still find yourself in a more blissful state.
The prescription for bliss, quite simply, is living without worry and, even more importantly, living without regret. Focus on life, on the present, on this very moment and the peace that exists just now. There is nothing you need right now, if you think about it. You are you, you’re where you are, and no matter what is happening in your life, at this exact moment in time, you are okay. Quite a concept. It’s not to say we should just quit work and sit on a park bench and just “focus on the now”. I saw plenty of those folks in San Francisco this week and I’m not anxious to give that a try, I may be missing the point there, perhaps they are happier than me, but frankly, I’m kind of fond of my daily shower and matching socks. Just become more present, learn to eliminate worry and regret and I am pretty sure you’ll see a definite shift towards bliss. Give it a chance, you’ll have no regrets!