Regrets. We all have them. I regret not opening my first business until I was 49. I’m not sure I was ready until then, but still, I regret the delay. What do you regret?Dead people receive more flowers than the living because regret is stronger than gratitude. - Anne Frank Click To Tweet
A Forbes article once listed the top 25 regrets. Is your regret among these pulled from that list?
- Not spending more time with family and friends
- Not standing up to bullies
- Not staying in touch with childhood friends
- Not turning off your phone more
- Not hanging on to your true love
- Worrying about what others think about you
- Not having confidence in yourself
- Not applying for your dream job
- Not living the life you wanted
- Not taking care of your health
- Not travelling more with friends and family
- Not trusting your inner voice
- Not being happier
Regrets: I’ve Had A Few
Have you noticed anything about these regrets? Most of them have one word in common: not. People regret things they didn’t do, opportunities not pursued. Research has shown that people are about equally split between regrets for actions taken and actions not taken. Interestingly, those who regret something they didn’t do tend to hold on to the regret for a much longer period of time, giving credence to the saying, “our biggest regrets are about the chances we didn’t take.”
Strayer University students put up a chalkboard in New York that asked people to write their biggest regret. They didn’t write about not owning a BMW or not living in a mansion. Their regrets were about not applying to medical school or not following their passion. Watch this to witness the power of “not”.
As Mark Twain said,
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Write down your biggest regret. Underneath it write: What can I learn from this? Compare what happened to what you wish had happened. This helps give you guidance if you find yourself in a similar situation again. Next, ask how this could have been worse. We’re turning regret into gratitude with this second question. Most people ask the first question but don’t get to the cathartic second question. Now, you have a way to get over regret should it happen in the future.
Stop Looking Back
Before we move on, we need to put those old regrets behind us. One of the lessons I have learned about past regret comes from a movie I saw probably 30 years ago. A single line of dialogue uttered for comic effect in Gumball Rally has helped me move on. The driver pulled off his rear-view mirror, threw it out of the car, and said, “first rule of Italian driving…what’s behind me is not important.”
So, pull off your rear-view mirror and throw it away because you can’t change the past, but you can rewrite your current reality. Forget the past regrets, erase “not” from your vocabulary. Let’s pursue our dreams, let’s have more fun in our lives. As we learned, we get over the stupid things we did much faster than the ones we didn’t even attempt. It’s time to try, to do, to seize the day.
Want to go back to school? Do it.
Got a bucket list full of things you want to do? Empty it.
Want to reconnect with childhood friends? Find them.
Want to start a business? What’s holding you back?
Want to be happier? It’s easier than you think.
Tell us about a dream you are pursuing, fun you are having, past mistakes you are erasing.