When one talks about living a life free of regrets, he or she usually has in mind taking more risks while they still can. It’s part of fulfilling the infamous ‘bucket list,’ trying to experience everything you want to before you miss your chance. It doesn’t necessarily involve skydiving or activities that may hasten your demise, with many seizing the opportunity to make amends with a longtime foe…or give them a piece of his/her mind!
I’d never condemn such a brave outlook, and at times, I’ve wished I could adopt it better. Life is short in this world, and it’s good to make the most of it. Often, however, this mentality is more shortsighted than it sounds. Though it entails thinking in terms of the future, many ignore the consequences their actions can have on the present. For instance, one might decide to climb Everest to avoid having to say, ‘What if?’ someday but may end up not being able to make the frequently-overlooked descent.
We all know everything has consequences, good or bad. Thus, there’s no way to be free of regrets altogether. We only get one crack at something most of the time, so we have to choose as individuals which potential regret would drive us craziest. For some, looking back on the exciting could-have-been’s would be a blow, but for others, the aftermath of pushing the envelope might sting even more.
If you can’t tell already, I fit in with the latter group. Call me boring all you want, but as I’ve grown older and seen how costly it can be to not hold back, I’ve come to realize that I can deal with the coulda’s better than I can the shoulda’s, woulda’s. Those three words are normally grouped together, but if you ponder it, there’s quite a difference between the first and the other two. Coulda refers to the unknown—many times idealistic—alternative outcome, whereas shoulda and woulda often accompany failures that you’d undo if you knew then what you do now.
While I wouldn’t suggest siting huddled up in a corner, afraid to make a bad call, I do recommend taking the time to think on cause and effect when you make decisions. The course that might not provide the most thrill or the best status may well leave you with the least regrets. In the tale of the tortoise and the hare, which of them had more regrets in the end? The tortoise, for sticking to his slow and steady pace, or the hare, for being overconfident in his speedy but unsuccessful flight?
With the current conditions we’re facing, regrets are a serious matter and can storm into our paths all too quickly. Under normal circumstances, a lot of our choices don’t catch up with us for years. Right now, though, what we do today truly dictates our own and others’ tomorrow. As we contemplate how we’re going to move forward, then, we have to weigh out which regrets we’re willing to place upon ourselves. Once we’re on the opposite side of this difficult and grinding catastrophe, wouldn’t you rather walk away with no regrets?