I have always been fascinated by this phrase since watching Madonna stare defiantly into the camera and sprinkle it with an extra dose of salt before delivering it to her critics. The words carry with them a sense of carefree bravado, frivolity, even shamelessness, and yet, who wouldn’t enjoy living a life that, when looked upon, offered not even the slightest ache that comes along with the desire to have done anything differently? At first glance, I think it is fair to say that we all would. Looking closer, we might change our minds. We learn not by doing what we know, but what we do not know, and if we never had a regret, it would mean that we always knew what to say, when to say it, who to trust, how to crawl, walk and run and so on. We would never feel the thrill of a job well done for everything would be done well. We would never have that “I Did It!” moment that comes with finally beating the game or the odds.
The word regret carries with it very negative connotations. Even the sound of it brings with it a guttural tone similar to garbage, and just as similar, when experienced, it stinks. There is no way to get around the fact that, for as long as we are blessed with time on this earth, we will make decisions that lead us into directions we want and don’t want to go. There are, however, ways to polish our thoughts, words and approaches (notice I didn’t say perfect these things) in order to experience less sting when looking back.
Here are a few that have worked for me.
Accept You Are Where You Are
How many times have you gotten out of a situation and realized you stayed in it “too long” because you had hoped that what had always been would somehow blossom into something different? This could be a job, a relationship, a way of living, thinking or even feeling. How many times have you said “positive” things when you felt horrible only to feel totally disconnected from yourself? Or perhaps you have existed in a perfectly lovely life while doing nothing but complaining and then regretted not “appreciating” what you had while you had it?
There is no magic pill, book or seminar that will change anything–be it your body, your relationship, or your life, and the idea that anyone is going to save you from yourself or anything else is a fallacy. Accepting where and who you are, right here, right now, is the only way to go anywhere productive.
Be Confident, But Not Overconfident
The little engine had the strength to push himself up that hill which is why his “I think I can” worked in the first place, but if you don’t have what it takes to do something, thinking you can isn’t going to cut it. That’s just overconfidence. Think about it: A first grade child can walk into a fifth grade classroom and wish him or herself into fifth grade all they want, but once the work begins, they’ll likely fail and feel worse about themselves after having measured themselves by standards they weren’t ready to rise to. Growth and development is a step-by-step process that takes dedication, focus and repetition. Believing in yourself means believing that you have the drive and abilities to do the work and equip yourself to achieve your greatest goals.
Know Your Limits
You don’t have to know what you want, but you do need to know what you don’t want. Having those boundaries and instincts in place will work almost as an autopilot flying you into the direction of a better life. Getting stuck in dead-end, chaotic, fruitless situations steals time and mental energy better utilized in other, more promising areas of our lives. Even if you aren’t strategizing every day, at least you’re not losing sleep and time with loved ones wasting time “deciding” between things you don’t even want.
Don’t Be Lazy
There is a big difference between the leisurely and lazy, I appreciate the first and abhor the second. I cannot tell you how having someone asking me for a favor and then expecting me to not only do the work of the favor involved (usually a pleasure) while also doing their part. If it’s not important enough for them to polish a book proposal, why should I utilize my contacts to submit it? Whether it’s your body, home, outlook, education, job, relationship, zip code or anything else, change is possible. The key is staying active in your pursuit of it. Everything in this life is a series of steps so keep getting up and taking the steps forward and you’ll finally get there. Sit down and complain, or worse, ask others to drag you forward without getting up is just going to frustrate you and everyone else.
Use Your Words Wisely and Honor Them
Words are very serious tools that have built and crushed empires, bonds, hearts and just about every important thing and connection in the history of language. These days, we see and hear more of them than ever before, and yet, none of them mean very much. They are yelled on reality TV shows, printed on magazines and blogs and sent frivolously and drunkenly through our telephones. It’s hard to know which ones to hold onto and which ones to toss, which is why when we come across those that carry weight and light, we feel we have been baptized in a way. When you know what you mean and you say it in a way that makes sense, not only to you, but those listening, the world becomes a much easier place to navigate. When you are known as someone who can be counted on, communicated with and who values the words that come your way, respect follows and doors, hearts and arms open.
Holding Onto Perfect
The world has been keeping a terrible secret from you; perfection is arbitrary. There are some who find Monet boring, sunsets cliche and symmetrical faces disinteresting. Tchaikovsky pleases some and JayZ others. The “perfect” body is not one, but many. The “perfect” food sends some into hospitals. Perfect is a carrot on a stick, it’s a mirage in the desert, it’s a bully who taunts constantly. The reality is that you may never get to a point where you feel your life is perfect, but you will have moments in it in which you feel as though the universe has stopped time and gathered all of the good things it has to offer and infused those seconds, minutes or hours with them. If we can be present in those moments and understand that all of the mistakes and flaws we carry with us actually led us to them, well, that’s when we truly feel gratitude.
Do The Right Thing
It sounds obvious, and yes, it can be a little boring at times, but when you do what you say you will do, are where you say you will be, live with integrity, hold yourself and others accountable and treat others as you would like (and expect) to be treated, things tend to go in different directions than when you don’t.