In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we took too long to make.” — Ritu Ghatourey
We all make mistakes in life. We take missteps, veer off course, and fail. It’s an integral element of human nature and part of the journey of discovery into who we are. As much as it might hurt, and as much as we might want to turn back the hands of time, we should never regret the decisions we make, no matter what or where they lead us to in life.
Often, our decisions are the result of a substantial amount of abstract thinking and internal wrangling. The mind, over time, gathers evidence, extrapolates connections, predicts the future, and comes to a rational decision based on the information readily available to it. Unbeknownst to us, this is the upshot of an analysis largely occurring in the subconscious mind.
The biggest problem? Although we might not be privy to the majority of the conversation occurring in the mind in what Sigmund Freud coined the Psychic Apparatus, this three-part system “thinks” it’s acting on our behalf. Its aim? To help us get what we want within the confines of reality, whatever that might be.
Whether we want to lose weight, get a new job, make more money, find the perfect spouse, or anything else for that matter, the mind is merely trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in an attempt to satisfy our innermost desires and urges. Can you really blame it for doing its best to ensure that you’re satisfied?
Why It’s Okay to Make Mistakes and Fail
While no one likes to make mistakes and fail, there’s also a certain beauty and innocence in it. Through failure, we learn. We grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally when we fail. And through that growth, we adapt to our surroundings, using the past’s errors as a platform to enhance our lives well into the future.
Think about a child (or even an adult for that matter) playing a video game. The number of times that he or she fails at that game is astronomical. However, through each of those iterations of failure, they learn and enhance their skill. Over time, they get better because of it. Practice definitely makes perfect, but not before a lot imperfect moments and failed opportunities.
The gamer, over time, knows what to look out for, what pitfalls might come up down the road, where to turn next, how to react when enemies come in their path, and because of that, they improve their skill. But it couldn’t happen without failure. Failure is the stepping-stone to success, so you should never regret your decisions, no matter how bad the failures turn out to be because of them.
Mother Nature acts somewhat akin to this as well. She fails over and over again. She makes mistakes. Plants, animals and a wide variety of life on earth including insects, reptiles, and other inhabitants, have genetic shortcomings. But through those genetic failures, they adapt over time. They adapt in order to survive.
Failure is a core mechanism to long-term adaptation and survival in every sense of the word. It has always been. The universe has made countless mistakes and has had an unimaginable number of failures. But there’s no room for regret, only room for improvement. Over time, things improve because of those same failures.
So no matter what happens, hold no regrets. You never know what the future might have in store for you. You never know where failures or mistakes might lead you to.
Why I Will Never Regret My Decisions
When I was just a teenager at the ripe young age of fifteen, I was involved in a traumatic accident. I was hit by a car while I was walking across the street. It was bad. Really bad. My leg had been splintered at a 45-degree angle, nullifying any ability to place a cast on it, my spleen had ruptured, and my head took a serious lashing when I vaulted 30 feet across the road after my hitting the windshield of a car apparently traveling far too fast.
I don’t remember much of it. I remember looking across to the other side of the street and seeing the bus I wanted to catch. It was an underpass with large columns supporting the passing train overhead. I was between two columns that were spaced about 15 feet apart. I was certain the road was clear when I stepped forward onto the street. Then, nothing.
I woke up up in the middle of a busy intersection with a huge crowd around me in what felt like just a moment afterwards. But I was no longer under the overpass. I distinctly remember a young blonde woman tell me she was a nurse and that I had been in a “little” accident. Then, blackness again.
In the ambulance, I regained consciousness. I just recalled a blurry scene with paramedics fussing over me, my clothes coming away to expose the badly-broken leg, blood everywhere, then a neck splinter slipping just beneath my chin. Afterwards, it was just a blur until I woke up in a hospital bed largely unaware of what had happened.
The next couple years of my life were torture. I had two major surgeries that included a metal rod with screws being placed into my leg, then removed in a subsequent surgery. Everything during that period of my life crashed down around me. I lost my girlfriend, the large part of a year in high school, and slipped into a terrible depression.
The initial physical pain that I felt had trumped the emotional pain during the beginning months. But the emotional pain, and the subsequent mental mind games it played on me, eventually took its toll. My spirits were low and I had lost all sense of purpose in my life. But things improved over time.
What I didn’t realize back then was that the accident was all part of a grand design meant to send me in another direction. I moved to California and enrolled in a new school and my life changed dramatically. I gave up the old life, bad habits, and poor choices of friends, and had a fresh start.
I don’t think things would be the same today for me had I not been involved in that accident. I don’t know where my life would have led, but I highly doubt it would be where I am today. I wouldn’t have met the same people, started the same businesses, or had the same experiences that became invaluable to my life and the lessons I learned over the years.
When we’re wading through the pain and the failure, and regretting past decisions, wishing we could go back and undo things, we don’t realize what lies ahead. We don’t realize the road that we’re traveling on or the fork that just took us in the direction we were meant to go in. The pain hurts. But we endure it and we come out on the other end as better people, more understanding, more compassionate, more giving, and more empathetic to the needs of others.
Why You Shouldn’t Regret Your Decisions
I could likely sit here and recount dozens of stories to you about my life and all of the pain that I suffered through. I could tell you about all the heartache and failures I had to grit and bear, and how it defeated and demeaned me as a person. But what I never realized at the time, and the reason why I will never regret the decisions that I made, was that it was all part of something that was building me up for the future.
I could sit here and tell you about how many times I failed at business and how many of my companies became insolvent. I could tell you about how I failed in marriage and how it decimated me to the core. I could tell you about how I failed with my friends and family, and about all the poor decisions that I made in my life. But I won’t tell you that I regret any of the decisions that I made, as poor as they might have been.
However, what I can tell you is this — there are 6 very powerful reasons why you should never regret your own decisions. I can help you to understand that whatever it is that you’re going through today, no matter how painful or hurtful or unrecoverable it might seem, there is a reason for it that you don’t understand right now.
Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and overagain and expecting different results.” As long as we’re able to correct our mistakes without having to repeat them again and again, and as long as we’re following the right path and doing things for the right reasons, we are certainly in our right minds and no one should think otherwise.
#1 — Failure builds character
When we make a decision and it results in failure, it can be painful. That pain can seem to go on for an eternity, because that’s the nature of pain. When you’re knee-deep in it and wading through the hardships, regret can seem like the only natural emotion.
We ask ourselves questions like, “Why did I do that?” or “How could I have been so stupid?” and “What was I thinking?” When we’re immersed in the struggle, it only seems natural to beat ourselves up. But the greater the failure, the higher the likelihood for character-building to occur.
We always reflect when we fail. We ponder our inefficiencies, we review our shortcomings, and we look for ways we can enhance our character. Failure makes us more sympathetic and empathetic to the needs of others. Rather than operating on Cloud 9, we’re more aware of what’s going on right here on earth.
While it sounds very Utopian in nature, failure is at the heart of a strong character. The most successful people in the world have failed the most times, so you should never be afraid of it yourself.
If you made a decision that ultimately ended in failure, don’t regret it. Rather, learn to understand it. Allow it to fuel you rather than defeat you. Allow it to make you into a better version of your self, because that’s just what it will do.
#2 — It’s better to try and fail than to never try at all
The fear of failure is a huge inhibitor of action in life. The mere thought of failing at something can cause such an immense amount of pain, that it can act as a deterrent, stifling us into a state of complete immobilization.
But the truth about failure is that the fear of it is far greater than the failure itself. Yet, we spend so much time in a state of fear, worrying about every last little thing, living our lives steeped in anxiety, engulfed in stress. The physical ailments that follow are a direct reflection of the mental, emotional, and spiritual pressure that the fear of failure puts us under.
It’s far better to take a chance. Calculated risks are necessary in life. It doesn’t mean we have to throw complete caution to the wind. It just means that you should never regret your decisions when you took a shot at achieving something that you really wanted deep down inside. Let the chips fall where they may.
#3 — You’ll ultimately foster the art of self-forgiveness
It’s okay to make mistakes. But it’s not okay to sit idle and allow life to pass you by because you’re too afraid of regretting your decisions. However, one likely outcome of making mistakes and failing in life is that you learn the art of self-forgiveness. You learn how to love yourself no matter where your life might lead.
Everything in life isn’t about money, power, and fame. Much of that are simple illusions of our society. If we were to look at how the other half of the world lives that are starving, oppressed, imprisoned, brutalized, homeless, sick, and destitute, we would appreciate what we have far more.
So forgive yourself for your mistakes. Don’t harbor regrets. Don’t harbor negative energy. Let it all go. Release it to the universe and just breathe. Don’t worry so much about what other people think of you. That doesn’t define your self-worth. What matters is how you feel about yourself. Do things you love and enjoy the journey. Don’t just obsess about the destination.
When you learn to forgive yourself, you learn to love yourself. And truly, in life, that’s the name of the game. We are nearly 8 billion souls on this earth all going about our lives, all working towards some end by way of some means. But most of us, at the end of the day, forget to forgive ourselves because we don’t love ourselves. We base our love on some foundation when it should just be unconditional.
#4 — You will come to the realization that there is a reason for everything
You’ve likely failed at a number of things. I know I have. But you’ve also likely realized that your past failures and mistakes had a purpose. They led you in a certain direction. They helped you to realize certain things and to reach certain outcomes that you might not have intended but most certainly did appreciate at the time.
Don’t regret your past decisions because they led you to where you are today, no matter where that might be. Everything in life has its purpose. No matter how much pain its caused you or how terrible a situation it might have been, there is a grand design that we don’t realize. There is a fabric of unending material that weaves us all together. Each knit, bob and weave has its purpose. Every crimp in the yarn has its design.
Sometimes it can hurt so badly that it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. But those are the times we have to remind ourselves of what we’ve already endured in life. We will never be given more than we can handle. We will always work things out. As long as you can keep a positive outlook on life, things do improve over time. Allow yourself that.
#5 — It helps you to better determine what you really want out of life
Sometimes, the past’s mistakes and failures allow us to determine what it is we really want out of life. Often, when we rush into things blindly, without actually mapping out our goals and why we want the things that we want, we allow life to carry us away. We don’t think about the purpose or the reasons for wanting and doing certain things because we’re largely living on autopilot.
When we make mistakes and fail, we gain a deeper perspective. We reach new understandings and come to new conclusions about life, love and the people around us. Failure affords us that opportunity. It’s a chance for self-reflection and digging deep into who we are and why we’re doing the things that we do.
No one in life is perfect. We all fail. The stigma of failure is so big in our society that everyone shies away from it. They try to hide the imperfect selves and work arduously to portray something disingenuous and inauthentic. We shouldn’t worry so much about outward appearances. We should worry more about what’s on the inside.
If you end up regretting every decision you make that results in failure, you will end up living a very convoluted and stress-filled life. Move away from that. Don’t be afraid to show the vulnerable side of yourself and don’t be so afraid of failure that it stifles you into a state of inaction.
#6 — The more times you fail, the more chances you have to succeed
My story about the car accident was just one incident where I initially regretted my decisions in a major way and beat myself up over it. But that wasn’t it. Every time I failed in business and my company went under, I slipped into a depression. When I failed in marriage (twice), the same thing happened.
But I never gave up hope. I never stopped trying. Sometimes, you just have to keep taking chances. You have to put yourself out there and take risk after risk. Today I have two beautiful children and an incredible wife along with multiple highly-successful businesses. I’ve learned so many lessons along the way, and through it all I’ve grown as a person. And so can you.
Keep trying. If you’ve failed, just pick yourself up and do it again. Just make sure you take a look at your goals and why you really want something. If you have profound reasons for wanting to achieve something, in that they run deep down to your very core, you’ll see things through. Make sure that your goals are important enough to you to keep pushing on.
If you fail. Try again. And again. And again. Just don’t look back and regret your decisions because they’ve made you into the person you are today.