Many motivational quotes focus on regret. They threaten with lifelong disappointment if you don’t do… whatever it is you’re thinking about doing. Those maxims are based on the idea that regret is inescapable and enduring, but I disagree with that premise.
Yes, regret is a part of life—there will always be missed opportunities—but I see no reason to dwell on them. At some point, time spent regretting is time that might be better spent moving on.
Life is filled with options, and one isn’t always better than the other. It doesn’t have to be fulfillment vs. emptiness. Any number of choices can be equally rewarding if we decide for ourselves that they are. If I can enjoy this, why should I dwell on not having chosen that?
When it comes to taking action, there’s something to be said for pushing oneself and letting oneself be pushed to try new things and leave one’s comfort zone, but not under the assumption that the alternative is inherently worse. Over the course of a lifetime, we can do a lot—perhaps we can even do more as a rule—but we can’t do everything, and that’s fine. Non-participation is not necessarily the same as missing out. Choosing not to take part in an ostensibly fun activity does not automatically condemn me to boredom.
I don’t appreciate so-called motivational posters that come with seeds of doubt or threats of regret. I believe true motivation sparks confidence that we’re doing it right; it inspires us to be happy with our choices and gives us the courage to deal with our mistakes. Words like shoulda, coulda and woulda have their place—we can learn from them—but they are not words to live by, and they are definitely not the
coal in my furnace wind in my turbine.
My life is not a checklist with ticked and unticked boxes. That’s not to say I don’t have goals. If we absolutely need a metaphor, my life is a canvas covered in splotches of paint, and it has been from day one. I wasn’t born to fill emptiness; I was born to add layers.