Most of my regrets are out of my control unless I do one of two things:
- Invent a time machine
- Stop thinking about them
While my last post covered what to do with the feeling of regret after the fact…I also wanted to do research to see if there is a way to reduce regret in the first place (without humouring the term YOLO).
Apparently, I am not the first to think about this. In fact, much research has been done on the topic. A lot of it has centred around interviews with retirees or older people, asking “How do you live a life with less regret?”.
The most common answer: stop wasting your time. Or use it more carefully.
This ultimately means spending more time on the things that give you pleasure or enhance your life, and less on the things that don’t.
And yet, when you are in your 20s and 30s, it is very difficult to see the proverbial forest through the trees. The slightest thing often seems like a disaster or world shattering (and it can be if you are Jordyn Woods). One decision = the rest of your life. While we know it doesn’t actually, it can feel that way.
So what if you are a ball of anxiety (like me)?
Or indecisive af (also like me)?
Or scared of making the ‘wrong’ decision (again, like me)?
How can you use your time more carefully and say yes to the things you want to do — ultimately making decisions that let you sleep at night?
Well, I’m here to help.
Make decisions faster, knowing that you are competent to do so
It’s your life so stop double-guessing yourself.
When anxiety strikes, it’s easy to psych ourselves out, downplaying our strengths and over exaggerating our weaknesses. It’s breaking out of being stuck in our heads — and taking action in any way is huge.
One of the most important, but often ignored, is to follow your gut instinct from the get-go. I often trust my gut to tell me when something just isn’t right. I get certain gut feelings about people (although I am naturally untrusting, so maybe I get it from the majority of people). I also get it from jobs or work environments that may be too good to be true.
When I look back on a bad situation, 99% of the time I knew it was a problem in my gut from the very beginning but ignored it. And I bet you are the same. So don’t fret so much — you got this.
Ignore the YOLO and ‘do what you want’ mentality and just say ‘yes’ more
“YOLO” and “do what you want” risks becoming a call to impulsiveness and more regrets. That’s why I like the trick, with its roots in the work of Carl Jung, of flipping the question and asking not what you want from life, but what life wants from you.
Looking beyond your immediate whims and desires, what’s trying to come into fruition through you as a person? Not spiritually (cause you know I’m not about that), but the core values and energy you are putting out as a person into the world.
While YOLO may not be the best approach, pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and saying ‘yes’ to things that make you uncomfortable or may be outside of your regular day can pay off in spades. That is how I ended up living in New York City for 6 months. The boss asked who would like to go, and I shot up my hand. No prior thinking, no thinking about logistics or friends. It is also how I ended up managing a team of data scientists and now working for myself.
By saying “yes” to opportunities in our physical, mental, and emotional lives, we get benefits we just can’t get by doing the same old thing every single day. What is the worst that could happen? If you actually sat down and thought about it, your very worst is not usually that bad…
Probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life, happened because you said yes to something. Otherwise things just sort of stay the same. – Danny Wallace
Pay attention to procrastination
Everyone procrastinates (and if you don’t, I don’t trust you), and we mainly see it is as a form of laziness.
But, procrastination can be a warning sign that something needs to change or something is not of interest or importance in your life. Obviously, the fundamentals of filing your taxes, paying your bills, and sending calendar invites are something we all procrastinate, but avoiding making a life change, moving, applying for new jobs, or even speaking up in a relationship or friendship, means that we are becoming dissatisfied and complacent.
Detach from the outcome and let go
This one is really hard for me (to be honest, they are all a challenge), but also a lesson that has helped me in the last couple of weeks (even days) to make some major life decisions — grow my business and buy a home.
I have become so paralyzed with fear of what may or may not happen in the future that I have had a difficult time making a decision in the present — ala buying a very expensive condo.
Sometimes we want things in life, but we are so attached to the end goal or end perspective that we are paralyzed and can’t move forward. What holds me back, as well as many others, is not knowing what we want and why we want it.
Asking yourself “What do you want? And why do you want it?” can help you grow and accomplish the tasks you want, without worrying constantly about the outcome.
And again, I don’t believe in some manifested destiny bullshit. (But if you do, this article is a nice compromise of both)
But sometimes we need to embrace uncertainty (blah) and ‘the willingness to embrace the unknown gives us security’ (Deepak Chopra).
But doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be hella hard and fucking annoying.