In one way or another, regret is ever present in our lives because there is always a road not taken. We make decisions from the moment we wake up till the minute we go to bed, small as they may be. And any different choice could drastically change the way our days progress, for better or worse. The whole concept of the butterfly effect is frustrating because it makes us second-guess everything.
But we should be thrilled to have to make these decisions–free will is the greatest gift life gives us. We control our lives in every way, even if external forces have significant effects, we decide how to react and move forward.
I am a firm believer in that having rigid expectations creates our disappointment. If today, you expect to get a promotion and you do not, you are disappointed. But if you go into the day with no expectations, and still don’t get a promotion, you aren’t any more unhappy at the end of the day than at the start.
But expectations aren’t the only thing that can ruin your day. Being afraid of missing out–of what could have been–is just as damaging. No matter where your life takes you, you’ll always regret what you didn’t do. But you can’t do everything, you have to make choices, and the only way to let go of the poison of regret is to stand behind your choices, own them, embrace them, and realize that you can’t go back, and you can’t possibly know what the other outcomes would have been, so stop worrying about them.
We do occasionally get second chances, to make a decision over again at a later date, with more knowledge and understanding, but it’s not the same decisions because we are not at the same point in our lives. This is a whole new decision with a whole new set of outcomes.
I think it’s important to look at life not as a road branching out with multiple outcomes, but as a winding path that always takes us to the place we’re trying to go. There is no such thing as fate or destiny. Life happens in the moment and is the choices we make. There are no alternate realities created by each decision we make, or if there are, they are of no concern to us because we should be busy worrying about the life we have now, not the one we could have had.
I write this because I’m coming up on a lot of hard decisions in my life. But then again, who isn’t? There is always an approaching deadline that we have to choose to meet with decision or indecision, action or inaction, but that in itself is a choice. To choose to do nothing and wait is a decision all on it’s own. Of course, one can only wait for so long before action has to be taken.
As I look back on the decisions I’ve made, sure, there are some I would have like to have turned out differently, some of them cause me regret, but I have to let that go because those decisions are in the past and don’t matter anymore. I’m where I’m at in life because of each and every one of the those decisions, and I wouldn’t change that.
The whole idea that happiness is not a destination, but is instead the stops along the way, is important because in moments when we are happy, we know we arrived there by making the series of decisions we did, and the same goes for when we are unhappy. Would you give up all of those happy moments to go back and change a single unhappy decision you made?
Doesn’t matter if you would because you can’t, so deal with it.