“If only I had known then, what I know now…”
“If I could turn back time, I would do it all differently…”
These statements of regret get said all too often — in different ways, to varying degrees, said out loud, or repeated in your mind — in reference to just about any life-changing decision you’ve adjudged to be a mistake.
The usual response or afterthought:
“Well, you can’t go back in time and change it, so, stop worrying about it!”
A true statement, this spells out in easy, common sense why regret is counter-productive. Yet, it never seems to move the needle much for the listener, who frequently will continue to dwell on and imagine a world of what-ifs and what could-have-beens, rather than correcting course on the reality of what is.
There’s a better way, though, to get yourself to stop harping on the unchangeable — and that is to understand that this feeling is completely illogical. It makes no sense.
When you regret something, and wish you had made a different decision, realize that even if you had made the ‘right’ choice, you’d be on an entirely different timeline of events.
You’d have no appreciation for the true gravity of your decision — and by no means would it be a guarantee that alternate-reality you would be better off in the long run just because that version of you happened to get one thing right.
Regret is your mind tricking you into thinking you can have it both ways.
Regret is the mind concocting an impossible scenario in which you make that alternate decision, but still somehow retain the clarity of hindsight, as well as thoughts, behavior, and in some cases, entire set of values which resulted from making the opposite choice.
Very few people realize just how absurd it is to operate in hindsight. It’s a double-negative. Bad because you can’t change it, and worse because it’s non-existent fantasy, a product of your emotions and extremely wishful, best-case sort of thinking.
You are imagining things which not only don’t exist, but could never exist.
Keep this in mind each and every time you find yourself wishing you’d done something differently. Consider that you’re now wiser, and that no version of you would be able to escape having to learn that lesson eventually. Trust life’s learning process, but most importantly, don’t allow yourself to be held to a standard of impossibility.
As Sadhguru says when discussing the concept of fear: "...[if] you’re suffering in the non-existential — we call that insanity.”