Today I was hanging around my apartment after the gym, just taking it easy and watching a show. The kid on the show was also enjoying their Sunday morning by playing video games and eating pizza. Next thing I noticed, I was thinking “wow, I wish I was that age again”. To be completely honest, in that moment I missed being a pre-teen taking it easy and being able to eat junk food and not really care about it.
Here’s the thing with regret, we usually end up regretting it. Yeah, that probably sounds a little weird, but stick with me for a bit. When I was a pre-teen, I would spend time playing video games, hanging out with friends, and eating junk food. The problem was that I wasn’t enjoying myself. I was too preoccupied with school stress, the pressure of fitting in, and about whatever else my pre-teen self thought was a life-or-death matter. Some of the things I was so worried about back then were so insignificant that I don’t even remember what they were to this day. I was too busy feeling regret over eating a whole bag of twizlers, not doing my homework, or because I did something embarrassing at school. No matter what it was I can’t actually remember a specific incident to this day, I only remember that it did happen. And now, that I’m in my mid twenties, I regret the fact that I spent so much time regretting stupid things instead of actually enjoying my time because in 10 years from now I’ll jut end up feeling the same way about not enjoying my time while I was in my mid-twenties.
So how do you really deal with regret? Obviously there are different ways of dealing with regret. Personally, I’ve decided to turn my regret into motivation. I don’t want to look back in 10 years when I’m in my mid-thirties and think “wow, I wish I would have taken advantage of my youth and freedom to do things that I can’t now”. As we get older, we usually assume more responsibility as we get careers, grow our families, and put down roots. Sure, some people are able to uproot and do what they wish they had done when they were younger, but I hope to have children of my own in the next 10 years so picking up and traveling across Europe won’t really be an option.
What this all really boils down to is that time counts. I have to stop sitting around waiting for things to happen and I have to start going out and making them happen. It also means that I can’t be afraid of doing things because I’m afraid I might fail. For example, I’ve had a software program that I’ve wanted to do for a number of years now. The thing is that I haven’t started because there will be a lot of research that I have to put into it and there’s a pretty solid chance that I’ll have to restart a few times and it will end up taking me quite a few months. In my mind, for some reason, I think that if I start this project later I’ll know more and it won’t take me as much time to get done. Sure, I could wake up one morning and have a complete epiphany about how to write this software, but that’s not likely to happen.
This can also be applied to my lifestyle. For years I told myself “I’ll start tomorrow”. For some reason I thought that starting tomorrow, Monday, next month, or in the new year would make starting easier. I’ll let you in on a little secret: it didn’t. In fact, the longer I ended up putting things off, the more difficult it was to start. On top of that once I did get started with whatever it was I said I would, I regretted not starting sooner.
Now that I’m learning these things about myself, it has become easier for me to learn to just do it. I’ve learned to transform my past regret over not doing anything into the motivation to accomplish my goals.
Don’t Look Back
One of the other problems with regret is that it prevents you from appreciating the present. When I was looking back on my time as a pre-teen, I was too distracted to appreciate the present moment. And, not to brag, but I really do have a lot to be appreciative about and I should be happy. But, in that moment I wasn’t happy, I was upset.
The best way to keep regret at bay is to truly live in the present. It’s so easy to dream about the future or get lost in the past, but in doing so we let the present fly by without anything significant happening. Even if nothing significant is happening just enjoy the freaking moment. Look around yourself and take note of your environment. Even if you’re doing something as mundane as brushing your teeth, be present and don’t let your mind wander. There’s always something to think about, the trick is to be aware of what you’re doing.
Nip It In The Butt
Regret is a son of a bitch. It feeds itself and fuels it’s own downward spiral; regret leads to more regret. When the little demon starts to poke up, acknowledge it. Nothing good happens from trying to shove down feelings. Acknowledge your regret and let it motivate you to make a change so that you don’t keep feeling more regret. Don’t let it be a useless feeling, turn it in to something positive. Whenever possible, work on being present. It’s hard to regret moments you’re present for. Life is going to keep moving forward regardless of what you do with your time.