Regrets are all too common. Doesn't it seem like they are just a part of life? Like we will always look back on our lives and regret how we lived it, and if we live a life without regrets we're somehow cheating the system?
I was reading an article on Business Insider on the most common regrets in life and I have to say, that was depressing. I had the feeling that the people who weighed in couldn't get past all of the things they had done wrong and there seemed to be a lack of appreciation for their lives.
It's one thing to say, "I wish I had traveled years ago, but I'm so glad I started when I did." But it's completely another to talk about what we missed out on by not traveling sooner or how traveling would have provided something we think we're missing.
There is a simple fact here and one I try to remember whenever I'm looking back on the past: we can't go back and change the past.
Isn't it silly to allow ourselves to miss out on life while we regret the past? If we're not careful, it can become a never-ending cycle. We keep looking back on our past, regretting the chances we didn't take or the mistakes we made all while doing the same thing in our current lives. When do we start living for today (or our future) and not our past?
The thing is, the way we lived our past created who we are today. That isn't something to take lightly. Our experiences give us an opportunity to learn and grow. Don't miss out on that opportunity by living with regrets. It's okay to say you wished you had done something differently, but work on replacing that with a blessing. What is the positive thing that can come from it? I know it's there somewhere, you just have to look for it.
A lot of people say, "I didn't have a choice." But that's not true. Whether we like it or not, we do have a choice. We don't have to stick with a job that doesn't pay. We don't have to stick with a job we can't stand. We don't have to stick with a job that doesn't give us the kind of lifestyle we want. If the job keeps us away from our family for months at a time and we don't like it, unless we signed a binding contract, we can quit today. If the job doesn't pay well enough for our family's needs, we can start searching for a new job today.
We can choose which things we keep as priorities. If we want to save money, we can choose to cancel cable TV or Netflix. We can choose not to buy that expensive vehicle on the sales lot. We can choose to buy a house that is well below our means rather than overextending ourselves financially. We can choose to relocate if the real estate market in our area has grown beyond a reasonable level. We don't have to rent an apartment for $1,500 a month. We have the choice to move to a less expensive area or state. We always have a choice.
Sadly, it's too easy to believe the lies that we are stuck where we are. Sometimes we need to stay where we are so we can learn the lessons that God has planned for us, but when we focus on those lessons and actually learn from them, He opens new doors. When we learn, we have a chance to grow.
What effect do regrets have on our future? What damage does it do to our beliefs?
Having regrets makes it hard to embrace the life we have right now. It keeps us dwelling on what could have been. If only I had stayed at that job. If only I had bought that house. If only I had avoided that mistake. If only I had said the right thing. If only I had gone after that degree.
Focusing on the shoulda, coulda, wouldas keeps us from enjoying all of the great things that are happening in our lives right now. It keeps us frustrated, irritated, or uninspired. But when we take responsibility for our actions and appreciate the things that we do have, we allow ourselves to experience joy and peace.
How much we enjoy life depends greatly on how we view it and how we see our level of responsibility. It is up to us, and we always have a choice. The choice may not be easy or what we expect, and it may require us to have a strategy (or faith!) and stick with our current situation until the time is right, but we do have a choice. Don't live a life full of regrets. Let go of the past and live for today.