Caught in a regret loop, I saw that they were a total fantasy…
I found myself wallowing in a bit of regret recently.
It might be something in the ether. I’ve got a few mates who have gone back to certain turning points in their lives, and taken a wistful look down a road that might have been.
Maybe it’s the nature of Covid – a great big stop sign in the road of life. Maybe it’s just what happens when you’re cooped up inside all day.
Anyway, at first I’m like, “Oh, this is a productive use of my time. I’m taking stock of how some big life decisions panned out, so I can learn from them and make better decisions.”
I think this is a good approach to have to life (in theory). I think with every investment decision you should make a note of your thinking so you can go back and check it against reality.
(What was I thinking when I invested in Pets.com?)
Otherwise you never learn.
But I don’t think this is what I was actually doing. I think lockdown was just getting to me, and it was nothing but a bit of wistful escapism.
But I started watching my regrets and I noticed something.
What I found was that I was comparing my current life to a hypothetical life based on another life choice – making different financial decisions, different romantic choices, different creative pursuits.
But I noticed something.
The picture I had of my current life was pretty accurate (I think!). I had a sense for all the awesome stuff, and I was very aware of everything that wasn’t awesome – the annoying and aggravating stuff.
However, the picture of I had of my ‘alternate life’ didn’t have any of this nuance. When I imagined it, all I saw was how awesome it was. To the extent I saw any downside at all, I tended to minimise it or dismiss it as not that much of a problem.
I think that’s something about human nature – we’re good at imagining how awesome something might be. We’re not good at imagining the challenges and work involved.
But what that all gave me was an apples and oranges comparison. I was comparing my current life warts and all, to an alternate life which had no warts at all.
So of course I’m going to wistfully long for that alternate life. That alternate life doesn’t have any problems. Everything’s awesome there. All the time.
But obviously it’s a total fantasy.
And so regret is nothing but a longing for a life that is completely unrealistic.
The reality, I try to remind myself, is that any life path has problems. All it has are different problems.
And so it’s really unknowable whether it would be ‘better’ or not.
And in the end, I also know that it doesn’t really matter. Happiness is mine to create. It’s an inside job.
And so yeah, regrets. Total waste of time. You’re comparing your current life to a life that has no basis in reality.
Do some push ups instead.