I’m sure most of you have had one or more variations of this little nugget shoved down your throat at one point or another. Don’t take it personally if you’re one of the many who use this paltry declaration as a lifelong motto but I abhor it—not you; after all Lucille Ball used it and she is one person for whom I could mean no disrespect.
The major thing wrong with this oft quoted fluff is the obvious. Something you did do is always something else you didn't. Left college to follow your ‘heart’ to Toledo only to end up a penniless single parent whose spouse left long ago for greener pastures? Left your high school sweetheart to pursue a law degree and found your career unfulfilling and life empty? Hopped a train to Hollywood and ended up a faded beauty, hardened by the cruel reality of the business doing demos at the local department store to make ends meet? Never got on the train and focused on finding the wedding, side split, sedan and 2.5 children that elude you to this day?
There is no “do” or “not do”, there is only “do” or “do something else.” Both can lead to regret. Or sorrow. Or joy.
But wait, I know there are many of you that look deeper, that say this quote is really about love—about following your heart! Your passion! Well, there are many quotes about love, about following your heart—your dreams, that don’t contaminate the sentiment by throwing regret in the mix and prompting far too many members of the general population to spout it at regular intervals. Geysers of uninformed advice, thinking that's is as simple as recommending the least popular decision.
Regretting is a fruitless enterprise either way. Sure, mull over past events. Take what you need from them but always move forward. Regret is useless, time as we know it only moves forward. In our reality there is no “If I’d only blah blah blah everything would be different.” We have no way of knowing what would be different and it’s impossible to test . The only sensible thing to do is let it go. Sometimes life comes full circle and sometimes it shoots off into the distance never to return home again. Either way don’t waste time regretting the past. Show the future the respect it deserves and embrace it.
"To regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's life. It is no less than a denial of the soul."
"Forget regret, or life is yours to miss." Jonathan Larson
"Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience." Victoria Holt
"As you grow older, you'll find the only things you regret are the things you didn't do."
"When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did." H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable." Sydney J. Harris