At the end of the day my guess is the greatest of your regrets in life will not be what you did, it will be what you “didn’t do.”
What “you did” is past and if dealt with properly it is either accepted, forgotten or forgiven. Screwing up is part of life and most always can be remedied. But… what you didn’t do, but deeply wanted to, sticks with you forever.
The Day Africa Died
It was around 1971. I had recently returned from 3 months hitch-hiking across the U.S. and Canada (LA to Toronto to New York and back). 3 guys, 3 backpacks, one guitar and $500 between us. Yikes, how did we ever get a ride? The truth is, back in those days we slept in strangers’ homes (invited) close to half the time.
Then after only 2 weeks back at home I joined 3 buddies and traveled to Mexico (as far as Guadalajara) for an additional month. After that I decided to go to Africa alone for a month or so. But I needed money, so I got a job with the intention of saving enough to take my new adventure.
In preparation, I bought a pair of walking-boots for the trip. That same day I spent the night at a friend’s house after partying hard. While sleeping, one of my gangster friends stole my boots and I allowed that simple event to deter me from pursuing my trip. Can you believe it was one crazy incident that demolished my dream?
“Wow!” That’s all it took. The truth is I became more interested in partying hard than experiencing a whole new culture. To this day, that decision haunts me.
Africa would have been so cool in the early 70’s: no major violence or hatred of Americans. I chose not to dive into an experience of a lifetime. Instead it was sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Idiot!
Life is Short
I’m different today. A helluva lot older and a helluva lot wiser. I know life is short. I don’t have time “not to do” those things that teach and excite me.
In my youth I did a whole lot of stupid stuff, but the crazy thing is that I “regret” very little of it – (although I do regret the way I treated some people). For the most part I consider my unwise early lifestyle as a time of learning. I needed to experience some challenging situations in order to live the life I have now. Honestly, I pretty much really like my life today.
In the past two years I think I’ve finally figured it out. Thanks to the Stoics, I’ve come to understand the shortness of life. I don’t have time to waste time. I need to get at it. As a result, I am highly motivated to…
- Love (especially my family and people that can use my help)
- Travel (foreign countries)
- Watch baseball games for extended periods (my son plays in the big leagues)
- Serve when the opportunity arises
- Be creative
- And a lot more
Certainly, I have a responsibility to financially and emotionally support my choices. But even then I choose to do so with joy.
When “Fear” Is a Positive Motivator
What do you think makes this all possible, (aside from the hand of God)? Fear!!! Yes, fear is my driver. I am more afraid of missing out than I am of stupid fears like failure or being mocked for not living like a “normal” person. Also, real fears can trouble me and ignite disturbing bouts that come with a genuine anxiety disorder.
Nevertheless, I still elect to move forward. Because I must! The desire to really live is stronger than any of my haunting pathologies.
What Do You Regret?
Enough about me. Now it’s time for you to get in Mr. Peabody’s “Wayback Machine” and review the regrets of your past.
How many regrets do you have of things you “didn’t do?” Things like not going on a trip, or taking time off work, or asking that girl to dance or go on a date, or spending time with your kids and loving them, or… shoot, a gazillion others.
Failing to do something you really wanted to do is integral to the human condition. A half dozen or more poor decisions probably come to your mind after only a couple minutes of pondering.
So what do you do about it? Sit and pine away with regret and sadness? If so, Stop It! Instead, why not use those regrets as motivators to challenge your life today? If you don’t, you may allow fear or laziness or undesirable habits to be your driving motivators.
And please, don’t allow your sense of “responsibility” to drop you off in a pond of quicksand where you eventually become almost totally immobile.
“Change” is the Norm
Responding to your inner desires will often require change—and change disturbs your sense of security, one of the strongest of natural human needs. But, all you have to do is review history (yours and the world’s) to conclude that “security” is a mirage. Businesses fail, marriages fall apart, the stock market crashes, the housing market takes a deep dive, your children make undesirable life choices…
OMG. Obsessing over these things is a killer and a significant derailer of dreams.
Instead, learn to be a “calculated risk taker” and go about planning to do at least one thing you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t allow that “regret of not doing it” even come to the surface!
Let me offer you a couple suggestions to help you figure out how you might go about doing that thing you’ve wanted to do:
- Take an inventory of a handful of things you regret NOT doing. This will serve as a reminder of the importance of living your dream.
- Write down 3 (or more) things you’ve wished you could do for a long time.
- Select just one. In fact, to start this process positively, select the easiest and most “doable” item on your list.
- Start planning.
- Dates to do it;
- Equipment or clothing needed;
- Costs—how much money will you need to save?
- Explanations to people that may try to prevent you from pursuing this dream. Haha
- In Star Trek II language: Make it So, Number One!
Don’t Let Yourself Regret
What You Didn’t Do Today!
Photo courtesy of Martin Dimitrov at istockphoto