If you live your life with ‘no regrets’, to be honest your probably a bit of dick
I’ve been thinking recently about the concept of regret. As is, on instagram and twitter, we love to post inspirational quotes and I so often see ones like “live life with no regrets”. Celebrity’s and public figures often cite this when being interviewed about what to say to young people who want to be successful. .
I find it a bit weird, I’m the sort of person who owns my regrets. I like to mark a mistake with consideration that it was something I shouldn’t have done and work hard to not do again. I guess that’s how I’ve been brought up (and I recon most other people too). So it’s interesting to me that so many people seem to think a regret free live is a happy, successful one. Often people post –script this with “no regrets just lessons learned” but regret is what allows you to learn the lesson? This vital emotion gets such a bad rap.
I regret that I stole from a shop as a teenager. I regret that I handled a break up badly. I regret that I was careless with money and ended up with a huge credit card bill. And it’s the regret part that stops me from making the same mistake time and time again. Someone without regret will carry on stealing, carrying on treating people badly and continue their spending when they don’t have cash. So why would you want to have life a life with no regrets? I think it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what regret is.
The Oxford University defines regret as: Feeling sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that one has done or failed to do.
You need a bit of regret sometimes. The emotional reaction is something to give us the insight to understand what is going on. It’s the only way we learn from our mistakes, and of course everyone makes them. By saying no regrets you’re almost saying, I don’t believe I’ve ever made a mistake. Which I think it impossible right? (However if you are this person I’d love to meet you, I think we’d have a lively conversation). To me, there is a huge difference between regret and carrying guilt with you and not getting over something.
Guilt after regret is a heavy burden. Guilt will tear you up from the inside out. I wouldn’t wish debilitating guilt on my worst enemy. This is what eats you up and leaves you anxious to strive or to be what you want to be. I think the point of this is preventative emotions. Emotions that prevent you to a point where you withdraw and not participate in things you otherwise would. I think this is what we are speaking about when we say “no regrets”.
So perhaps we should start another slogan we can all share on instagram:
“No regrets beyond the point where you learn from them and are able to move on as a more balance and rounded human being.”
That’ll catch on right?!