Do You Live Without Regrets?

“The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” ~ Unknown

My first meeting with “Carpe Diem” was when I was a sophmore in English class. It was a novel phrase when I was introduced to it,  almost twenty years ago, the idea that we should all live our life by “seizing the day.”  The popular aphorism, at least for me, gained momentum  when I watched  Robert William’s’ character in Dead Poet’s Society and remember the speech where he says “Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

What does seizing the day exactly mean?  And how do you build the everyday into a lifetime of having no regrets? Is it even possible to live a life without no regrets? I am not really certain I have an exact answer to this question. In writing this post, I decided to list out my regrets. Although the list wasn’t acres long, it wasn’t short either. The regrets moved from the general to the specific to the microscopic. But they were there, staring, making eyes at me.

I think we’ve all had moments of words we want to take back or pathways we wished we had taken or not taken or advocated for different actions in our personal or professional relationships. These “regrets” are what shape us and in a larger sense are a part of how we progress as individuals. Implicit in having no regrets is the idea that every word, every action, every step you took was perfect. And I think that is an idealistic and unrealistic viewpoint.

I’ve been struggling with this notion that the present is where existence lives, chanting to myself, now, not the past, but now. Part of me is mad at myself for not really adopting this philosophy to the fullest, because it is the one that would allow me to at least have a shot at living a life without no regrets. But I’ve realized, by looking at my list, that I’ve come to terms with some of those regrets. I’m not someone who can casually utter the phrase, “No regrets.” To be frank, I’m not quite sure what people mean when they say it. I’ve concluded their definition of regrets and mine might differ.

The regrets I can live with. You know why? For me, it means examining my life, my choices, and my relationships. It’s more important to me to have examined life, than the life without no regrets.

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What do you think of the phrase “No regrets”? Do you think it is possible to live a regret free life? Do you seize the day? What does that mean to you? 

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “Do You Live Without Regrets?

  1. I tend to wallow in regret, and it’s a loathsome trait. I’m trying to change, but it’s slow going.

  2. I think it is impossible to live without regrets, but as long as we learn something from them, they can be useful.

  3. Darsh Patel

    It is definately impossible to live without regrets. I have few of my own but it definately keeps reminding what I should not have done and I have done. Now, doing what I did in the past, I do not want to have them again or add more to my list.

    • I think we all want to minimize our regrets list. I believe it is helpful to periodically review those regrets. Just so we won’t committ the same mistakes again.

  4. I always say I live with no regrets, but I think it’s actually more like you say “regrets I can live with”. There are things I wish I had done or said, but it’s ok that I didn’t.

  5. Regrets are opportunities you let slip past you. Wallowing doesn’t bring them back or erase the pain associated with them. All you can do is to present your back to them and go forward making better choices, never forgetting the lessons in the regrets, but never living the regret. Joy is always a better choice, a new perspective, trust in Him who will always have our best in mind.

    • It’s learning from the regrets and trying to live with them. I think it is necessary to actively acknowledge that there is nothing you can do about past regrets. You only hope you make better decisions in the future.

  6. If I have no regrets, that means I am not learning from my life choices. To me, regrets beget a time to learn and grow…and then forget and move on!
    Trish

  7. I think it’s important to reflect on what we could have done better or taken better advantage of…but I definitely try not to wallow in it.

  8. “The presence is where existence lives.”

    Well, if you ask me – yes and no. As long as we have the mental capacity for memory as well as imagining our futures, then the present is just a piece of the pie, Rudri. I think our current contemporary fascination with the concept of “living in the present” is being taken to an extreme. We can’t (and IMO, shouldn’t) be constantly in the present; we’d never plan or work toward goals; during bad times, we’d be in terrible pain without the ability to reference the past and spin the future as a means to retain perspective; and to me, were we all in our own “present” we would be far more likely to slip into narcissism.

    For me, I seek a balance in which we shift (and learn from) the past, appreciate (or tolerate) the present, and build (imagine) the future – knowing the balance will vary for each of us and at different times.

    As for regrets, how can we not have them? I doubt those who say “I have no regrets” – rather, I think they may be realizing that we cannot have a “do over.” Furthermore, we don’t know what altering the past might do in the scheme of what we love and those we love.

    I have regrets – most of which have to do with not having learned lessons earlier, lessons that could have made my life and that of my children a bit less stressful. I have regrets when it comes to people I’ve unintentionally hurt. For me, the trick is learning from regrets, not self-flagellation.

    • I like your interpretation of regrets BLW. I think it is different for everyone and we each have to find our own pendulum of regret. Sometimes the swing of deep regret is necessary to learn and to forge a pathway of more clarity in the future.

  9. Good point – regrets do make us either more cautious or take bigger risks in the future, and just by doing that means we are learning from our past, which I think is quite important in propelling us ahead. At least in the direction we hope to go.

  10. I believe it is the way we define our regrets which determine how we move forward in the future. But I think it requires a conscious effort.

  11. I’m with you…I don’t understand it when others say they have no regrets.
    “I can live with my regrets.” — that’s more like it.

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