‘No Regerts' Is Not the Best Life Motto

Have you seen the Snickers commercial with a tattoo artist finishing up “No Regerts” on a guy’s arm? It’s a ridiculous commercial and a little bit stupid, but the sentiment of living your life with no regrets is also pretty ridiculous.

I think I know what people mean when they say they’re trying to live their life without regret. They don’t want to leave things unsaid to their loved ones. They want to make decisions without fear. They don’t want to be controlled by their past. But regret isn’t the thing we should avoid.

Here are three ways regrets make us better:

1. They allow us to effectively evaluate the past.

Mistakes are part of every aspect of our lives – work, home and leisure are all marred by imperfection. Sometimes we create a mess. Sometimes we just participate in the mess. To look at the situation and proclaim “no regrets” doesn’t help us reach greater levels of peace or resiliency. It’s just a way to let ourselves off the hook. When we fall together as a team, we need to rise together as well. That’s where change happens.

2. They allow us to move out of blame.

Living life without regrets is a lot easier if you just blame other people for what went wrong. You can move through a problem without taking responsibility for it if you just shift the failure to other people. At the heart of blaming is the idea of control. If your first thought is “who is to blame here?” you’re attempting to find a way to control the situation, and not in a healthy way. Taking responsibility means you let a situation develop and appropriately regret the parts that weren’t perfect without blaming others.

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3. They allow us to make future decisions based on values.

Our values should drive our actions, but that’s not always what happens. Change occurs when we can look back and see where our actions are out of line with our values. There was a time in my life when I would’ve said that your actions prove what you believe, but that kind of harsh thinking didn’t create greater opportunities for success. Instead, thinking about moving my actions toward my values has proven to be a much more successful way to affect change. To get there, you have to look at what has been and embrace the regret.

Here are a few of the things I value:

  • Setting clear boundaries
  • Being reliable by not over-promising
  • Staying accountable and making amends if something goes wrong
  • Keeping information vaulted for only people who need to know
  • Choosing what’s right over what’s easy
  • Offering critiques but staying out of judgement