No Regrets Allowed

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Sometimes people ask me for advice about big decisions they have to make. I always tell them I don’t like to give advice because then they can blame me for any undesired outcomes that may result.

That’s kind of a joke but not really. So, instead of giving advice, I try to show people how to work through their own answers and choose the best one. That way, they can always take full responsibility for anything good, or bad that happens.

One of the most crippling things that keeps people from deciding to do something in numerous situations, is fear. They are afraid of what the consequences might be. And more than anything, they are afraid they’ll regret their decision.  This type of worry is irrational, even though every single one of us does it.

We worry about all kinds of things. Should we or shouldn’t we send that email? Should we skip that meeting and go to Starbucks instead? Should I hit the seven iron even though I know a six iron will get me over that water hazard? Sorry, had to put a golf reference in there.

We fret about so much, it’s a wonder that anyone gets anything done. I see my lady friends worry about what pants to wear, what dress to wear, and whether or not those shoes will go with the rest of the outfit. Some guys stress about things like that, too. And if they don’t, it’s a sure bet that they are stressing out about something else in their lives.

The fear of regret can be so crippling. But how can we push through it? I mean, if it were easy to do, everyone would do it, and there would be a much less stressful world to live in. At least I hope it would be like that.

Actually, it’s not as hard as you might think. Getting past the fear of regret just takes a little focus, and a little reframing.

Life Changing Decisions

I have a friend who was recently considering flying out to California to attend an event with a person she admires professionally. It would be a tremendous experience for her, both personally and career wise, and at the base of it, would be a cool thing to do since she’s never been to that part of the country before.

Despite all of those pros, she continued to fret over whether or not to buy the plane ticket out there.

Granted, the ticket would be expensive. With that money, she could have bought a new laptop, or new clothes, or paid off credit card debt, or any number of other things. And all of that stuff would have been a good use of her resources.

She was afraid that if she bought that plane ticket, she would regret it later because she might need the money for something else.

The Good Thing About Money

I explained to her that there is something awesome about money. You can always make more of it. What you can’t do is recreate experiences that typically happen once in a lifetime.

This event was one chance for her to go visit a place she’d never been, hang out with some awesome people, and potentially learn some really useful new things.

I asked her a simple question. Would she regret spending that money on a plane ticket for the rest of her life? Or would she wonder what could have happened if only she had taken the plunge and flown out west?

It all comes down to focusing on which potential regret is bigger. In her case, while she isn’t rich, she can always make more money, and spend it on the kinds of things that I listed before. But missing out on the opportunity to meet great people, spend time with them, and take in the sights and sounds of a new place, all would have been too much for her to handle.

That kind of regret would be monumental. I picture her standing on a balcony weeping about the time she almost did something spontaneous and exciting. Okay, maybe not that dramatic but you get the picture.

What About You?

Is there something you are thinking about doing but are afraid of what might happen? Maybe you are thinking about starting a new business, taking a spontaneous vacation, or doing something a little crazy that may be a little out of your budget.

Remember, what you really need to do is figure out what you will regret more: taking the leap, or taking no action at all.

It’s up to you.

I’d love to hear about some things you’re thinking about doing. Feel free to post them in the comments section.

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8 Comments

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8 Responses to No Regrets Allowed

  1. A successful life is all about balance. Weighing potential regrets is one way for your friend to decide whether or not to take that West Coast trip. But: she could also weigh potential benefits as well! Rather than her focusing on what could disappoint, or go wrong, maybe she needs to be encouraged to look positively at what is in fact a wonderful choice in her life just now. She can choose to spend that money on the trip, with with potential benefit of expanding and enriching her life and business experiences, or she could use that same sum to pay down those credit cards (and I hope that if she doesn’t go she will do just that, and actively help free herself from that unnecessary financial pressure). She has the luxury of choice – and true benefits either way. May she be guided to do what’s best for her now. With your help I’m sure she will be.

    • Wilfredo Souchet

      Very well put Ernie & Octavia and since this is a theme close to my heart, I’m moved to put in my two cents. This has been my philosophy for living for over forty years – I was 18 when I locked on to it in my heart and my brain after having made a decision that made me miserable for EVERY DAY FOR A FULL YEAR. So on my eighteenth birthday, when I comtemplated on the lost year and especially as I looked forward to the rest of my life(as an ‘adult’ and with all the potential of what the future had to offer to me) I made the decision that I would ALWAYS, from then on, judge my life actions NOT by looking back in regrets but by looking for the positive results (no matter how minimal) AND using the negative results as valuable LLE (life learning experiences) which can be truely appreciated in future circumstances. Regrets are ONLY valuable when they can be used for the latter NOT to be wallowing and drowning in. I have never looked back since then.

    • I love this addition, Octavia. :)

  2. Jackie

    As I’m reading this I’m thinking, “Why didn’t he give me this advice in high school?” If I had heard this maybe I would have lived life a little more fully and a little less practically when I was young. But then maybe I did get that advice and just didn’t listen. Now I wish I would have taken a year to study abroad or been brave enough to try more risky things rather than being worried about how I would afford it, what people would think, or the consequences of failure.

    On the other hand, as I think back on it, I realize that I did have some great friends who encouraged me to worry less and try new adventures. I’m thankful to have been blessed with great people like that in my life. And I believe one of those friends looked a lot like you. Great advice!

  3. My husband and I have spent 26 years working on a boarding school campus as teachers for a conservative religious system. Due to personal changing belief systems and a host of other reasons, we are taking steps to leave the system for the public system this coming summer. It’s a HUGE step–one that brings a lot of fear in its wake. We are comfortable as we’ve been “here” for 26 years now. But we have suffered financially and have yet to purchase our own home. We have a lot of fear of the unknown and, ultimately, fear of regretting this monumental decision. But if we make the move, we will enjoy so many good things that staying here won’t allow. And that is why the title of your blog piqued my interest! I appreciate your wisdom. :)

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