Editorial Notebooks

Considering life decisions leads to regrets, moving on

Making formulas for happiness in past mistakes

I often find myself daydreaming about impossible scenarios. These scenarios always include me going back in my life and changing a decision I’ve made. This decision could have been yesterday, ten years ago, or last month. And I always believe that if I had simply made a different decision, or gone down a different pathway, my life would be so much better now. I mean, it’s true, my life would most likely be better, but the irrationality of actually playing out the scenarios in my head must be early signs of dementia.

In all seriousness, I think that having this kind of mentality is a problem. When one is stuck on past mistakes, it is ironically harder to learn from them. In my head, I keep redoing the scene, like takes for a film. As I dwell on the perfection of the scene, I am numb to the reality around me. My life is a dull imitation of the life I could have had, had I just not made those stupid decisions. Consequently, I am prone just to repeat those actions again, since I haven’t really done anything to improve my habits or character.

Now, I’m going to tell you to live with no regret. It’s going to be a very hypocritical time, since I’m not sure I will ever be able to obtain such a blissful existence (as I’m sure it will never really be so for anyone), but stick with me. Some of the regrets I have are quitting gymnastics in the third grade. I could have been an Olympian! I regret not studying well enough for that Physics II exam last week. I could have maybe not tanked my GPA this year (again). I regret telling that one guy back in high school that I liked him, because, wow, that ended badly. While I could go on for quite some time, the point is, you can’t take it back. The moments are fleeting; don’t let the regret of the decision become permanent.

I never read Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligan, so I’m no expert. But if I could make my own formula for being happy, it would be this: be kind to others, be hardworking, and live as if your past is not your enemy. That last one was kind of cryptic. Basically, don’t hate yourself for messing up, but rather try to be better for having done so.

I think if I could follow this advice I could live a full and happy life. Yes, I have my regrets, but the only direction on this journey is forward.