Anyone who has lived more than two decades and is at all self-reflective wishes they had handled some things in their life differently or made some other choices than some of the ones they made. Anyone who tells you they don’t regret anything they have done is either a profound narcissist, hasn’t done much in life, is a pathological liar, or some combination of those charming qualities. Westerners in particular spend a lot of time “should-ing” on themselves, and the results include damage to self-esteem, paralysis by analysis, self-pity, depression, and in some cases even a reluctance to move forward or take chances at all.
If we look at our past honestly, the only productive question we can ask ourselves is whether or not we made the best choice we were capable of given the information we had to work with at that time. Of course we might make different choices today – we know more today, including how the choices we made yesterday worked out! Factors influencing the choices we make include life experiences, our understanding of the situations we are in, our assessment of the people with whom we are involved, economic factors, and a host of other variables. The reason we would make different choices today is that we have a lot more information to work with, including the lessons learned from the choices we made in the past that didn’t work out so well!
Monday morning quarterbacking may be a fine past time for football fans, but it’s a pretty poor way to run our lives. Hindsight is 20/20 precisely because it’s hindsight. Any of us could make decisions we wouldn’t regret if we knew ahead of time all of the variables and potential outcomes of any choice we might make. The real question is whether or not we learn from our mistakes. The truth is that every decision we make, whether good or bad, contributes to who we are today. It is the trajectory of life decisions that is the best indicator of how we have lived, and it is the cumulative results of our decisions – good and bad – that puts us in a place to mentor others.
Often times when we look at potential leaders of any kind we seem to be looking for someone who has never made a mistake. Even if such a person existed, and they clearly do not exist, they would be horrible leaders because they would have always taken the easy and safe way out of every situation, never taken a risk, and therefore would have never grown. As much as our successes define us, our mistakes define us – and together they make us who we are. Often times, painful choices are our best teachers. Rather than put ourselves down, we should congratulate ourselves for how far we have come!
Spend some time celebrating some you!