Saturday, February 13, 2016

Living Happy #4: No Regrets

If only I'd married my high school sweetheart, I'd be happy today.  If only I'd finished college, I wouldn't be working this crappy job.  If only I'd studied engineering instead of Danish poetry I'd have a girlfriend.  If I'd stayed in the military I could be retired by now.  If only I'd remembered to wear gloves I wouldn't be in prison.  As my wife always says, ". . . woulda, coulda, shoulda."

Regrets drag a lot of us down.  Some people never get tired of blaming the course of their life on these decisions and errors made months, years, or even decades earlier.  You can't change the past, and thinking like that doesn't help you today.  And regrets are misleading, because when you have regrets you assume a different decision in the past would have been the better one--and you really don't have any way of knowing that. 

Let's say you had married your high school sweetheart like you think now you should have.  You might very well be going through a nasty divorce today.  You know what your regret might be if you had married your high school sweetheart?  Yeah, that you hadn't married that crazy psychopath!

At one point or another, everyone has a regret.  It took me a long time to figure this out, but the best way to avoid regret is to really think through decisions before you make them, and deal with the mistakes as you go along. 

When you think through your decisions, they don't become regrets later on, because when you look back at those decisions, you know why you made the decision you did, and that it was the best decision at the time.  It's those decisions that you don't think through that will come back to haunt you--like that mullet and those parachute pants you wore way too far into the 90s.  Be very deliberate in your decision making.

And believe me, I make a lot of mistakes (according to my wife), so I have adopted a simple way of dealing with these sticky situations I find myself in as they arise--I apologize when I need to (it is never inappropriate to apologize) and make amends when I should (sometimes sorry isn't enough).  Then I simply move on.  It's done.  Six months, three years, or ten years from now, that mistake I made or that decision I made doesn't become a regret with me because I dealt with it at the time. 

There is no possible way to go through life without making mistakes and bad decisions from time to time.  It's natural.  That's how we learn.  We shouldn't be afraid of them.  If we go through life so carefully we don't make any mistakes, we're going to wind up missing an awful lot of really wonderful experiences.  Believe it or not, one day you may very well wind up regretting all those things you missed by playing it safe.  We are the sum of our experience, both good and bad, and we learn a lot more from our mistakes than we do from our successes in life.

So stop living in the past.  If you're making mistakes it means you're living your life.  In the end, the things we regret aren't the things we did, it's the things we didn't do. 

~Todd E. Creason

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