What will you regret?

Recently I have been fascinated over this idea: what makes people happy? The more I explore the more I can narrow it down to a few themes, but the most common theme is regret. As a relatively young person, regret is intriguing to me because one of my biggest fears it that I will have regret later in life.

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.” – Henry David Thoreau

Regret plagues many people. All one has to do is Google ‘quotes about regret’ and they will be bombarded with thousands of inspirational pictures and quotes with the goal of assuaging one’s feelings of regret. Regret comes naturally. Decision-making can be very difficult and many times one has to choose between multiple unknowns. It is natural, once those unknowns are known, to ponder if you made the right decision. Regret can be crippling and has led many down the path toward alcohol and drug addiction and in extreme cases suicide.

But what do people regret? Do they regret not working hard enough? Do they regret not taking a chance? Do they regret not following their passion or succumbing to the pressures of others? It’s hard to pin-point any one of the these causes, and the truth is that is different for each person. I could talk about this for days but instead I will go directly into what I believe causes regret.

People regret not being honest with themselves. This sounds both abstract and obvious at the same time, but I truly believe that most people do not realize this. There are people who truly find happiness by working their hardest and becoming the best. There are other people who truly find happiness doing nothing. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. It is up to the individual to make that decision. Where on the spectrum do you fall? This is much harder to do than it sounds, mostly due to the multitude of external factors.

The only way to obtain this realization is to take chances. Don’t study for a test; stay out all night drinking instead. Or study for the test and miss out on the party. Take the mindless job you’d only do for the money/stability…or turn it down. Take a sober month, just to feel the difference. Gauge your response levels to each choice and in turn you should feel pretty good about what you’ll regret and what you won’t.
The hardest part is being honest with yourself throughout these trials. What really makes you happy could go against preconceived ideas that you thought you were against, but you find you actually like. Or vice versa.