Do you have regrets? Frank Sinatra sang about his: “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.”
I read recently that individuals over 50 years old say their biggest regrets involve not doing things. What kinds of things? Traveling to other countries, changing careers or jobs, meeting new people, and trying to strengthen a specific talent.
A person does not need to live for decades to have regrets. Some young people regret not trying harder in school, not expressing their affection for a specific person, not taking chances in performing in front of others, or not expressing their appreciation for what others have done for them.
Studies of representative samples of Americans indicated that the most common regrets involved romance, family, career, education, finance, parenting, and health behaviour.
Some individuals have many regrets and tend to dwell on them. These people may feel quite sad. I almost never think about my regrets. There are things I would do differently, for sure. But they are in the past, and the past is over. I want to learn from the past without living in it.
You can read about regrets in the news. Naturalist David Attenborough recently said that he regrets not spending more time with his children when they were growing up. Singer Kenny Rogers said the same thing.
There are things I would do differently, for sure. But they are in the past, and the past is over.
Regrets can help us when they lead us to take corrective action or to do better in the future. If it is too late to thank certain individuals who were incredibly helpful to us, we could make sure we thank everyone now who helps us. Also, we could be incredibly helpful to others.
Our regrets can help others when we share our experiences. Our children and our friends can learn from our regrets. Maybe they will learn to take a chance.
Regrets may have less bite if we discuss them with others who are close to us. These other individuals may help us take a more positive or realistic perspective. They might point out that making different decisions years ago could have led to ruin.
If we talk about our regrets, friends might suggest good ideas for how to take corrective action or otherwise do better as a result of our regrets. They might also share their regrets and thereby make the point that no one lives a perfect life, seizing every opportunity.
A philosophical friend might ask us about the opposite of regrets – something I call rejoys. These are memories of the excellent decisions we made and the outstanding actions we took – the ones that led to the successes we cherish. I put in the rejoys category my decision to migrate to Australia.
When you look back, don’t forget the rejoys.