“When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.”
When you reach a ripe old age and are reflecting back on your life, what would you rather be filled with; the satisfaction of a life well-lived and full of achievement? Or the regret of unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities?
Regret is a very powerful emotional state, but also has within it the potential for good. It is far too late if you wait until you are approaching the end of your days to reflect on how your decisions and choices affected your life. Regret, in this case just intensifies as hindsight reveals missed opportunities which time has now left you unable to take advantage of. If, however, you are self-reflecting regularly as you go through life and setting goals to be aimed for, then regret can be used to your advantage.
When you reflect back at regular intervals (monthly, for example) on your progress, it is inevitable that you bring to mind elements which fill you with a sense of regret. These could range from a missed business opportunity to an interaction which you could have handled better. Regret is uncomfortable, and our default reaction is to pretend as though it never happened. You can, however, choose to confront the source of your regret. In this way, regret is a positive force as it can spur you into action. It provides a learning opportunity, so that you may handle a similar situation better in the future, but it can also motivate you to search for a way to rectify the error or salvage the situation. The key message to take away here, is that you have a choice whether to let regret motivate you or defeat you.
The life we ultimately lead is the result of our choices and the limits that we have placed on ourselves. Of course, there are always outside forces and unforseen circumstances which may force us to change direction. It is, however, up to the individual whether they allow these challenges to derail their progress and force them to give up, or they find instead the courage to keep going.
Reflecting on your life’s direction regularly and taking action is one of the most effective ways to fight off regret in later life. Stop letting outside influences dictate how you live your life, but rather make the choices and decisions which take you closer to your dreams, ambitions and goals. If your reflections do reveal sources of regret, don’t shy away from them but muster up the courage to challenge them.