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JEFFREY TOBIN: Regret me nots

by on October 13, 2013 1:55 AM

I’ve had a number of conversations recently with people who have regrets about decisions they’ve made. Some of them have lost their jobs, businesses, even their sense of self-worth over their decisions. This makes me quite sad.

Now I’m not talking about capricious, knee-jerk decisions based on emotion. I refer to those decisions to which one has given significant, thoughtful consideration. “Should I have taken that job?” “Should I have invested in that business?” “Should I have moved my family to Toad Suck, Ark.?” (Yes, it’s a real place, and no, you shouldn’t have.)

When results of our decisions are bad, we tend to look back and ask what might have happened if we’d made other choices. This kind of thinking will cause you endless regret and pain. Not only is it bad for you to go on thinking negatively like this, but it’s wholly unnecessary. Why? Because you made the right decision in the first place.

Don’t believe me? I can prove it.

Let’s go back in time for a moment, a time when you made a significant decision — one in which the results were not good. First of all, if it was a significant decision, you gave it serious thought. Perhaps you sought the advice of others, did some research or spent a substantial amount of time in introspection. Perhaps you prayed about it, scribbled out possible scenarios, confided in a mentor. Any or all of these are signs of thoughtful consideration.

Could you have seen the future of your decision back then? No. Did you know then what you know now? No. Did you weigh your options, do your due diligence? Yes. Well, there you are: It was the right decision.

Given the same circumstances again, and having the same experience, knowledge and options available to you, you would have come to the same conclusion. End of story.

Regret about an informed decision is hurtful, but it’s also inappropriate. Yes, you must respond to the results of your decisions, but results are entirely different from causes. Go ahead: Be unhappy about the results, but don’t second-guess how you got there. Just make your best decisions about how to move forward.

The results of some of my past decisions may haunt me forever. But were they the wrong decisions? Nope.

You’ve handled bad circumstances before. You may handle worse in the future. But you can never do better than your best at any given moment. Do your best. Learn. Move on. These few words may be the remedy to overcoming the regrets of what you’ve thought were bad decisions.

Give yourself some credit: You were thoughtful. You did the right thing. Now start looking forward to where you’re going, not where you’ve been.

Jeffrey Tobin, an international speaker and business coach. He is also the owner of Henry Hall Office Products in Indiana and hosts the website His professional advocacy columns appear Sundays in the Business section of The Indiana Gazette and the Community News page on The Indiana Gazette Online.
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