If I had remained calm, I could have avoided that unpleasant encounter.
If I had another chance at that relationship, I would have probably been a different person and salvaged it.
If I knew the meeting was important, I would have prepared in advance and not made a fool out of myself.
If I had more time, I would have written that exam much better.
The “Ifs” are never-ending because we are experts in imagining how events could have gone every other way, but not the way they actually happened. There is a certain solace to that imagination, but the side effect is regret.
As I am cruising through the tail-end of my 20s, I am faced with questions about whether I have lived a fulfilling life during a phase considered everyone’s prime. Facing these questions lead me to be retrospective of some of the cornerstone events and it turned out to be an unpleasant endeavor.
I noticed difficulty in cutting myself some slack for almost all events. When it felt like I was insulting my past version for the decisions, I stopped. But, regret was looming; especially for the events for which I would have taken radically different decisions now.
But, life doesn’t come with undo and redo options. So, what now? Live with regrets?
Regret is always used in a negative context, but if I was going to live with an inevitable emotion for the rest of my life, I had to figure out a way to use it to my advantage- by allowing regret to be an indicator of growth.
Regret mostly arises when a person is armed with new information about an event in the past or has a perspective shift that makes them feel like they could have done better. Theoretically, that definitely sounds like growth, but we fail to see it because it doesn’t allow us to change the past. So, we end up being oblivious to the growth.
Regret loses its negative identity the moment our obsession to change the past is eliminated. When regret is turned into an index of growth and is used as a compass for the present, you have found an unusual ally. An ally that will be brutally honest, but definitely helping you fine-tune your decision-making process.
It is an unpopular opinion to befriend regret when the common notion is to not have any and waste a single second living in the past. But, the moment we think about not having regrets, we are actually robbing ourselves of the opportunity to look at data that is showing us our growth and more importantly, proof of how our opinions can change radically about a situation.