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Take a moment and reflect back on the biggest regret of your life — the missed opportunity, the trip you didn’t take, the business you failed to get off the ground, or something you knew you should have said.
This feeling is heavy and becomes a burden in our lives, taking away our energy for the present and having us focus on “what could have been.”
But here’s the truth: past regret can be used as leverage to make new decisions in the future and ensure you don’t experience it again. In this post, you’re going to discover 4 ways to ensure you don’t wake up with regret — so you never look back knowing you missed your shot.
What Do We Really Regret?
For most people, the research is clear: we regret the things we didn’t do much more than the things we did — even if our actions didn’t work out. In a 2017 study about regret, titled The Ideal Road Not Taken, here’s what researchers found:
In contrast, “undoing” a failure to act is often impossible. The one who got away may now be married to someone else; some talents can only be fully developed if one starts young; a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity comes around only once.
In summary: there is no loss in going for it.
Because what really haunts us is knowing we didn’t act when we could and missed our shot. Now let’s examine the ways you can use this so it never happens to you again.
1: Use Reverse Visualization
You’ve heard of visualizing your dreams for success, but what about reverse visualization? Instead of your dreams, I want you to amplify the pain of the future if you stay in the same place.
Take the big decision you’re going back and forth on: if you choose to not launch your business, side hustle or passion, move cross country, write the book, or ask him or her out — ask a simple question:
What does life look and feel like five years down the line? Go through every moment of your day feeling the burden of regret and don’t stop until it hurts and wakes you up.
2: Visit Your Local Cemetery
A cemetery is a place of treasures — including many books never written, songs never sung, and dreams put off to the side, traded for the illusion of “someday.”
There is something special about visiting a cemetery to remind you of our mortality — when you’re faced with it, you make bigger and bolder decisions and don’t put things off. This may sound a little intense, but it’s not. Personally, I visit my local cemetery once a month and ask myself some key questions:
- Am I truly on the right path?
- Am I stepping fully into my dreams?
- If today was it, what action(s) would I take?
Equipped with this perspective, we go back to our day-to-day life with much more courage and remember what matters.
3. Use Your Past as Leverage
At the start of this article, I asked you to identify your biggest regret and feel the discomfort of looking back at it. The purpose of this was simple: to give you leverage towards making new decisions in the future.
Because with our regrets, we have two options — we can play them back over and over, beating ourselves up for what we didn’t do. Researchers call this process rumination, which leads to anxiety, depression, and a feeling of hopelessness.
In contrast, past regrets can be hopeful: they lead to new choices when faced with similar decisions or fork-in-the-road moments.
From here on it, use your past regret as leverage to ensure it never happens again — as you step into your boldest self.
4: What’s Really the Worst-Case Scenario?
Next time you’re faced with a big decision, ask yourself — what is truly the worst-case scenario? I don’t mean thinking all of the things that could go wrong. Instead, think about looking back with regret knowing you missed a big opportunity.
Remember: there is always another unfulfilling job, an environment you hate, and a relationship you can’t wait to get away from. Pull out a pen and paper and make a list of worst-case scenarios: once you get them out of your head, they lose their power over you and don’t seem as important.
Fear will always find ways to stop you in your tracks as you leave your comfort zone, including creating worst-case scenarios that never pan out.
Say Goodbye To Regrets
So, there you have it: four real-world ways to ensure you make bold decisions today, overcome fear, and double down on your big dreams. Remember: your path is your path…not someone else’s. Own this unapologetically and watch your world transform with meaning, purpose, and commitment.
As you continue to use these tools, you’ll realize how much closer your dreams are to coming to life — and how it’s only a matter of time.
If you want to know more about how to ensure you don’t wake up with regrets and take the bold leap, my upcoming book The Leap of Your Life: How to Redefine Risk, Quit Waiting For ‘Someday,’ and Live Boldly will take you through the entire process.