Scott’s Thoughts: Preventing Regret

“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have and should have.”

Louis E. Boone (May 1941 – January 2005); Author

Image of REGRET being erased.More often than not, we will regret what we didn’t do over those things we did, even if those things we did fell short of our hopes. If you look back on your life, you may find it remarkably hard to recall things you tried that didn’t work out, but the most glaring will be the times something held you back. A man who must file for bankruptcy after a risky business deal will not remember it so much as the time he failed to visit his elderly mother upstate before she passed.

Action takes the sting out of regret. Each new attempt, every decision to stand up again after a blow helps us let go of missed opportunity and times when fear held us back. I believe we have a bias for action, a kind of internal drive that mandates we learn. When we thwart that drive we are the most unhappy.

It is easy to slip into safe habits. Far too easy to settle into sustainable patterns that keep us from exploring. We must be mindful of this in order to avoid the accumulation of regrets. If we come to the end and ask ourselves, “What did I do with all of the time?” we have been unmindful.

A simple way to practice mindfulness is to keep a list. Keep a list of the actions you are taking, the “what’s new” in your life this week. Only note the proactive things you do, the times when you have actively made a decision and followed through on that decision. Look for something to investigate outside of your regular routine. It might start small, like a shift in your morning coffee stop, but it might also be large, like pursuing a new language with an eye on a 50th birthday trip in a foreign country.

When people look back on your life, let them remark on all the things you tried, not all the rationalizations for the things you didn’t do.

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