I’d like to talk a little bit about regret and why I think it is one of the most negative feelings a person can have.
Some time ago, someone asked me the following question:
“If you could choose between $1,000,000 or going back to correct every/any mistake in your life, which would you pick?”
Somewhat surprisingly for them, my answer was instant: I’d take the million dollars. Anyday. Always. However, the question did get me thinking a little bit as to what its motives are.
I thought long and hard about what the question was getting at. What it was trying to reveal about a person and I believe I may have come up with a viable theory. The question tries to show which people have regrets about their past. Those that have serious regrets would pick the latter choice over the million dollars.
And here is where I want to talk about my feelings toward regret. Regret is a very interesting feeling. It eats away at the back of your soul every day. It’s not a feeling that goes away either. In fact, given enough time, it can drive people to madness, and make them take decisions that seem irrational.
I am fortunate enough to say that I do not have big regrets in my life. Now, note that this is very different from saying “I have not made mistakes in my life”. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s what makes us human. It is how we learn from these mistakes that allows us to become better.
I have certainly made mistakes in my life. In fact, I might argue that I have made many mistakes. I’ve done dumb things, said stupid things and made bad decisions. But I’m fortunate enough to say that those mistakes have not had a severely negative impact on my life. On the contrary, I might argue that those mistakes have had a positive impact on my life. Sure, I felt terrible after making those mistakes, but those feelings fade with time.
But what this question seems to be targetting are people with serious regrets. People who would do or give anything to go back in time to seemingly “fix” the mistake that they have made. And this is where I think having this feeling is dangerous, and frankly, unjustified.
I’ve always thought about the mistakes that I have made in the past. What it would be like to change them. But I can’t help but not think about the movie “The Butterfly Effect“. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you watch it. However, the general idea of the plot is that something negative happens in the lead character’s life, so he goes back in time to change it, only to make things worse due to unforeseen consequences.
And while the movie might be little over the top, it does make a very valid point. We do not know the entire consequences of our actions. Perhaps going back in time and correcting a mistake might make things objectively better, but there’s no guarantee in that. Our “corrections” could have catastrophic consequences to us that we may not even be able to comprehend.
I find that people who have such regrets in their life are not valuing the importance of mistakes in their life. Mistakes make us who we are. Without them, we would be completely different individuals.
So yes, the million-dollar option was a no-brainer for me. If I had a chance to go back in time and make every single mistake I have ever made in my life, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I would not be where I am right now without them. My mistakes made me who I am. I will continue to make them, and they will continue to mold me into the person that I will become.
So, what are your thoughts on regret? Do you have any regrets in your life that you wish you could fix? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!