People often imagine that they would have done things differently if only they had known better. I would have bought Apple when it first came out. I would have majored in business, not art history. I would not have done what she wanted. I would have, I would have, I would have…
It’s so easy to dwell on missed opportunities. Pile on the regrets. You should have done this; you shouldn’t have done that. But hold on! It’s not just what you did or didn’t do, knew or didn’t know. It’s what you felt or didn’t feel.
Your emotional state is often the decider of your actions or non-actions. And yet, we forget that. Emotions fade fast from people’s memories. As anger dissipates, fear diminishes, self-righteousness wears thin, the situation looks different. That’s when you wish you could go back in time and make different decisions, but, alas, what’s done is done.
So rather than sigh and say, “if I knew then what I know now,” ask yourself “What can I learn now to reduce my regrets in the future?”
A few suggestions to help you be pleased with your decisions going forward:
- Question your assumptions. Too often, people think about their assumptions as “the truth,” not as a preference for how you’d like things to be. The more you believe your way is the “right” way, the more likely it is that you’ll dig your heels in and have a closed mind to other alternatives.
- Know your decision’s pros and cons. Rather than quickly deciding what you’ll do, explore your options. It’s sometimes tough to do this as it may trigger anxiety. You may feel perplexed, puzzled. Bewildered, baffled. So much to think about; so many alternatives. What to do? When to do it? How to do it? Though it takes time, stick with scrutinizing your options. You’ll end up with fewer regrets.
- Learn to negotiate. When your decision differs from what someone else wants, don’t be unnerved by a “no.” If you’re intimidated and quickly give in, your regrets will grow. So, state what you want. Seek to understand the other person’s perspective. Ask questions. Search for a viable compromise that respects both of your needs and desires.
- Make sure “later” doesn’t become “never.” Yes, you were going to start doing that. Yes, you were going to explore other options. Yes, you were going to finish it later. How easy it is for “later” to turn into “never.” So, do what you promised yourself you’d do now. Do it! Nobody else is going to do it for you!
- Limit the time you spend in your comfort zone. Think things would be different today “if only you had …?” Think again. Stay too long in your comfort zone and you’ll be collecting more “if onlys.” So, step outside of your comfort zone. Yes, you may feel frazzled, frustrated, maybe even frenzied. But don’t give up. Stay with the task at hand. Then rejoice when you reap its benefits!
- Say “no” to some things, so that you can say “yes” to others. Nobody has unlimited time, energy and money. So, make sure you allocate these resources in a way that ensures your success. Success isn’t going to just plop down on your doorstep. You need to devote time, energy and, yes, maybe money to attaining your goals.
As you put these ideas into action, your regrets will decrease, your guilt will dissolve and your sighs will diminish. Now you know!
“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start,
anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
~ Carl Bard