I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about all of the things we had done that in retrospect seemed like bad ideas.
Failed relationships, poor decisions, wrong turns on the path of life all came up, and my friend said the magic phrase, “If I knew then what I know now, things would be different. If I could only do it all over again.” That thought is probably one that everyone has had at some point in their lives. I, myself, have thought this before, but not any longer.
If given the opportunity to go back in time and make different choices, I would have to pass and here is why.
First of all, it is common to look back with a sense of nostalgia, and not with realism. Choices were made for a reason. You have no way of knowing how a change in your life would affect you today.
Things could have turned out much worse for you. It was best explained to me this way, if you picture all of those choices you didn’t make as ships sailing in the distance, you can see the sails, full of wind pushing them off into the horizon.
You are wasting your time chasing them with regret, because you will never catch them and you don’t know what is beyond the horizon. Those ships may have carried you to some very unsavory and unwanted results.
Things could have been much worse for you if you made a different choice. When we think of doing things differently we only focus on an idealistic, positive result. When the result could have been disastrous. Since you could be far better off with the choice that you did make, thoughts like this appear to be a waste of effort.
Secondly, always questioning the decisions you made in the past will make it much more difficult to enjoy what you do have today.
You may have a good job, or a relationship you value, and you wont be giving them your full attention and enjoying them as much as you could, if you waste your energy pining away about the past and what might have been.
Every one of life’s choices is a potential learning experience, and usually the choice of whether it was a good or a bad choice is made solely by you. You can choose to get something good out of almost every situation you encounter, or you can choose to get something bad, it is all up to you.
So why not enjoy what you have today and appreciate the experiences that have gotten you here, rather than spend your days rehashing old mistakes and carrying around the regret of what might have been.
Third, one of the great things about getting older is that we do, even if we don’t try, gain experience and with it a form of wisdom.
From the day we are born, we are constantly learning new things that allow us to navigate the sometimes difficult channels of life. Some people take much more advantage of these learning experiences than others. Without all of the “mistakes” we have made along the path of life, we would lose much of the hard-earned wisdom and knowledge we have gathered over the years.
Everybody has the ability for good and to live a life that provides satisfaction to them and makes the world a better place. Regretting your decisions of the past is a form of self loathing that decreases your self-esteem and makes living a positive life more difficult.
If you dislike your choices so much, you must dislike who you have become, and it is hard to be happy when you are forced to face a person in the mirror every day that you are not very fond of.
Finally, we all have the ultimate choice as to what type of person we are to be. Regardless of all of the choices we have made. What you did yesterday, or ten years ago or twenty years ago has very little to do with who we choose to be today.
Nothing can stop you from being positive except yourself. Nothing can stop you from being productive except yourself. Nothing can stop you from being great except yourself.
The past is stored in the great attic of your mind, it is OK to remember, and visit and pour over past experiences to glean wisdom, but to carry around a profound sense of regret about things will get you nowhere.
Today is the next great day of your life and you can choose to make it so or choose to turn it into another moment you will regret in the future as you watch it sail into the horizon.
Quotes about Regrets:
“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”
“Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.”
Henry A. Kissinger
“Apologizes are pointless, regrets come too late. What matters is you can move, on you can grow.”
“Chris Cooper once told me to never have any regrets. After Chris said that to me, I walk into every scene thinking, ‘exhaust every possibility.’ Once you get to a certain place, it’s like you just deliver everything you’ve got. Don’t have any regrets. It pops up in my mind over and over and over again.”
“For my own part, I abandon the ethics of duty to the Hegelian critique with no regrets; it would appear to me, indeed, to have been correctly characterized by Hegel as an abstract thought, as a thought of understanding.”
“Had we not pursued the hydrogen bomb, there is a very real threat that we would now all be speaking Russian. I have no regrets.”
“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”
Louisa May Alcott
“Having regrets and things, it just takes your time away.”
“He had to deal all at once with the packed regrets and stifled memories of an inarticulate lifetime.”
“I already gave my best. I have no regrets at all.”
“I do not allow myself vain regrets or foreboding.”
“I don’t have a lot of regrets in my life.”
“I don’t have any regrets. When I quit college and moved to Los Angeles to become an actress, it was so that I would not look back and have any regrets.”
“I don’t really believe in regrets.”
“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about regrets because there’s nothing I can do.”
“I felt that I ostracized myself by my behavior, by the past, by living with all the regrets of my mistakes, that I sort of wore a hair shirt and beat myself up most of the day thinking and regretting why did I make such a mistake? Why have I made so many mistakes?”
“I gave everything in my career so I have no regrets at all.”
“I have a lot of regrets, but I’m not going to think of them as regrets.”
“I have many regrets, and I’m sure everyone does. The stupid things you do, you regret… if you have any sense, and if you don’t regret them, maybe you’re stupid.”
“I have no regrets about launching Salon. For the life of me, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
“I have no regrets about my life.”
“I have no regrets because I did everything by the book.”
“I have no regrets in my life. I think that everything happens to you for a reason. The hard times that you go through build character, making you a much stronger person.”
“I have no regrets. I don’t believe in looking back. What I am proudest of? Working really hard… and achieving as much as I could.”
“I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.”
“I have no regrets. I’ve got my health.”
“I have to say that I have no regrets about my decision to become a priest or about the major directions my ministry has taken me… I have been and am happy as a priest, and I have never been lonely… I could have used a bit more solitude.”
“I try to live my life where I end up at a point where I have no regrets. So I try to choose the road that I have the most passion on because then you can never really blame yourself for making the wrong choices. You can always say you’re following your passion.”
I usually say I did the best I could with what I had. I have no major regrets.
“I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets.”
David Herbert Lawrence
“I’m not gonna try to defend, or undo what’s been done. All I could say about whatever’s been done, it’s been done, and it’s water under the bridge. I have no regrets of my life.”
“I’m very lucky, I’m happy with life because my experiences led me to do what I had to do. I don’t have any regrets whatsoever.”