Taking Action: The Best Antidote to Regret
As I sit at my electronic piano keyboard and practice some sight-reading out of a Beginner's book, I come to the harsh realization that I'm not very good at reading music. I think, “Imagine where I’d be if I had devoted REAL practice to this thing." Feelings of regret plague me. I’m a much better performer these days than I am a sight-reader, but I still think, “I would be a world-class musician by now if I had put in the amount of practice that the greats did. I would, right now, be what I know I’m capable of being.”
Do these thoughts sound familiar to you?
You might regret missed opportunities. Or, you may have done something to hurt someone you care about emotionally. You might have let a relationship turn sour. You might have let a business or job opportunity pass you by. You might not have taken full advantage of your education or chosen the “right” college major. You wanted to get better at meeting and dating the opposite sex, but you were always too shy and afraid of rejection. You wanted to be a rock star or a world-renowned artist, but you’re older now and it seems too late for any such thing to happen.
No, we can’t travel back in time and undo those things. There's no magic pill. But we can make the rest of our lives better.
Some of your past mistakes may be "unfixable," but there's always a way to be proactive in addressing them.
- You can apologize to the person or people you’ve let down, and resolve not to make the same mistakes in future relationships.
- You can pick up old interests and hobbies that you failed to follow in the past.
- You can go back to school and embark on a different, more fulfilling career path.
The best antidote for regret is action.When you’re fully invested in taking action, the regrets start to fade away. You’re literally creating a new reality for yourself, so that later, you’ll be able to look back with pride at overcoming regret. Your lamentations over missed opportunities and mistakes will be replaced with memories of fulfilling experiences and some unexpected joys along the way.
Here's a suggested plan of action. (Use at own risk. This advice has the potential side effect of improving your life.)
1. Identify your regret. Don’t let a vague depression hold you back. Write down the things you regret. This can be hard, especially if you've been suppressing those thoughts. But it's necessary to bring those unresolved issues to the forefront of your conscious mind. Instead of dwelling on them this time, you're working towards eliminating them from your life.
2. Identify the thoughts and beliefs that will hold you back from addressing those regrets.
See if you can spot your own thoughts in this list of common excuses:
- “I’m too old.” You’re only as old as you think you are. Yes, physical age is real phenomenon that can temper your ambitions, but what matters is how you live your life. It doesn't matter if you’re 88 years old and you want to learn how to become a rock musician—in fact, I’d applaud and admire you for it. If that’s what you want to do, if it interests and excites you, go for it.
- “I don’t have the time.” Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day in pursuit of your goals, you can make the time. That is, if you really want to achieve said goal.
- “It’ll take too long.” It’s a process. Learn how to enjoy the process of learning--it's the only way you'll get through the hard work of improving yourself as a person.
- “It’s not ‘normal’, common, or expected enough.” What, you want to be “average”? You want to be boring? You want to be this guy?
yourself a favor and take some risks.
Spice up your life a little. Be a
little open minded.
3. Now that you know the excuses are worthless, stop wasting time and TAKE ACTION!
When I remember this guy, my regrets fade to the background and I feel empowered to take charge of my life. How about you?
Do SOMETHING towards achieving your goals, and do it TODAY. Even if you take a baby step, that’s something. But do it. Don’t waste anymore time. Don’t give yourself any more opportunity for regret.
Start TODAY on fixing a regret you’ve been putting off dealing with.
Go ahead, I’m waiting. Thank me later. (In advance: you're welcome.)
Guess what? One day soon, I think I’m going to be a great sight-reader.