All of us sometimes do things that we regret. Those things can be relatively minor – such as getting an unflattering haircut, buying an article of clothing that we learn to quickly dislike, or going to a movie that lived down to its poor reviews. Some regrets are more serious than that: moving to a new neighborhood or making an investment or taking a new job without adequately investigating the potential downsides. These regrettable actions share certain characteristics. They are unpleasant, but they are not all that we have done in life – even though it may seem so at the moment. They do not represent our total self-definition. And, we’ve got to get over it.
To help us stop over-focusing upon past mistakes, it is important to understand the distinction between process and outcome. Life is a process. So long as we are alive, that process is not complete. Part of that process involves trying things, sometimes making mistakes, learning from them, and moving ahead as a better person. Personal growth is inhibited if we define ourselves by our last mistake – saying things such as, “I always make dumb decisions.” That kind of self-talk assumes that you have reached an outcome point and are no longer capable of learning.
It’s not fun to make mistakes, but it’s part of life – as every researcher, inventor, and golfer knows. Successful people in all walks of life, however, don’t define themselves by their last mistake but they don’t keep repeating the same ones. Most of all, they never let an unsatisfying temporary outcome derail themselves from continuing to embrace the process of learning and living life in a proactive and positive manner. We should ask no less of ourselves.
Any comments? Any examples from your own lives? Any differences of opinion? I’d really enjoy hearing from you.