That's what I always tell my students when they are curious about the most common of questions - "What do you regret?" We all look at our lives in hindsight, and of course we think about "what ifs" and "I wish I had" and, more importantly, "I wish I hadn't ..." That is, I guess, natural. However, regrets are not only a waste of time, but also a dismissal of the possible long term benefit or value that comes from a short term mistake or loss.
I truly love my life and where I've ended up. And I have to conclude that everything that has happened in my life led me to this point. For example, I had planned to join the Marines out of high school. I thought I'd do four years and then go to college. Alas, poor eyesight and bad knee ligaments and asthma disqualified me from service. A huge disappointment at the time. Yet, I went to college where I met my beautiful wife - the love of my life - and had two wonderful children - the joys of my life. And none of that would have happened had I gone in the Marines. Now, certainly, I would have been on a different path and may have been just as happy in that one had I joined the Marines. But, the reality is, I am thrilled with the results of my choices and the events that have happened. So, I can't really regret anything that has led me to where I want to be.
These thoughts remind me of a great line from the song Beautiful World by Colin Hay.
And still this emptiness persists
Perhaps this is as good as it gets
When you’ve given up the drink and those nasty cigarettes
Now I leave the party early at least with no regrets
I watch the sun as it comes up I watch it as it sets
Yeah this is as good as it gets.
The idea of living my life with no regrets is very appealing and satisfying. And the idea of "leaving the party early" with no regrets resonates with a lot of people. Going back to middle school, I can recall worrying about "missing something" if I wasn't at the right party or there at the right time or with the right people ... etc. All those "right" designations are such a bunch of myths. Leaving the party or deciding what to do that is "right for me" is one of the most important states of mind to have. We must always be willing to learn from setbacks and disappointments. And I do belief in the value of self reflection and the examined life.
But life? .... no regrets.