Why Regret Is Good For You

By regret I don’t mean “I wish” and “I should have”.  I mean “I did” or “I didn’t”.

Those who wish and should typically didn’t really intend to attempt the thing they now regret in the first place. Regret is about choices resulting in actions. Something we did or didn’t do which we now cannot do. But if approached properly, regret can act as anchor or tether, a friend and motivator.

After I left home as a young man, I failed to stay in touch regularly with my parents. Back in the day, it was expensive to call South Africa from the United States. WhatsApp, FaceTime and free wifi didn’t yet exist. I convinced myself that I couldn’t afford to spend $20 a week to call my folks. They understood. I felt relieved. But after they both passed away at relatively young age, I regretted my choice to not invest that money into those precious relationships. Somehow I had the funds to purchase meaningless stuff that has no value or meaning, so it wasn’t really about the money.

Today, regret is a friendly motivator in my life. A good teacher and happy servant. Our adult children live in different cities from us, so we message them every day. We FaceTime several times a week. We’re on a fairly “expensive” family data plan and each of us has the latest smartphone so we can see and hear one another clearly when we communicate. Regret unlocks wisdom. It’s wise to presently spend money you cannot take with you on those you carry with you for eternity. It is, after all, only money.

As we approach the end of one year and prepare for the next, let’s allow regret to be a good teacher and encouraging friend. Let’s not “wish” and “should”.

Let’s decide and do.