When I was a teenager, acutely aware of the life-altering impact of every choice I faced, I adopted a decision-making strategy which, though it has not lessened my anxiety, has nevertheless served me well.

I decided that, when I was paralyzed by indecision and needed to snap out of it, I would imagine myself on my death bed, then look my options squarely in the face and determine which would cause me the least regret from that future position.

This method has mostly caused me to do kind of crazy, out-of-the-box kinds of things: sell all my possessions and move to Ireland with two small children, quit a Master’s program to move across the country, homeschool my kids, sell my car and become a cyclist.  And I regret almost none of them.  As the old song goes, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.”

But it occurs to me that I should have expanded this policy beyond the momentous decisions to include the small habitual choices I make everyday without even thinking about it.  I realized this when I suddenly became aware of how much I regret and will regret all the worrying I’ve done in my life.  I’m not entirely sure that this is a choice, or if I might choose to break the habit and live differently.

But these small acts of extreme stress and discomfort color my life’s journey just as much as a decision to marry or change jobs.  Day after day accepting my tendency to panic and refusing to take on the project of learning a new approach to conflict and challenge is just as essential to forming who I am and what my life is about as moving house or cultivating a friendship.

I choose now to devote time and energy to this goal: of becoming more emotionally stable, of learning to relax and see how small most obstacles truly are in the Big Picture, of finding the fun in a challenge instead of going into fight or flight mode against an insurmountable enemy such as a bank error or burnt toast.  I choose to remember that the attitude I choose to have throughout an average day is just as important a detail of my life as my address or my level of education.

I know that even if I don’t ever totally succeed, at least this is one decision I will never regret.


Filed under Life

5 responses to “Regret

  1. el burro

    If you find ways of getting to that stable place, let me know! a good friend of mine says that 20-30 mins of daily morning meditation make all the difference for her…

  2. I’ve heard that meditation is good, but can one get the desired effect when surrounded by screaming children, is my question! 🙂

  3. el burro

    I think it might be one of those choices. Set the alarm and get up to meditate in the dark, or get 30 more valuable minutes of sleep. Sleep always seems to win out for me.

  4. stacybuckeye

    I’m a worrier too! I think that is why I read so much. You can’t worry about something if you are lost in another time and place. Of course this only works with good books 🙂

  5. Ah, this reminds me of a recent conversation when I was whining about having to close my bank account (fraud!) and someone telling me, “Oh that’s the worst.” And, I was proud of myself that I could say with all honestly that there are a lot worse things that I could suffer through and if dealing with the bank was painful, it was really not that bad.

    I like your decision consideration philosophy.

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