Regret is worse than failure; I can say this because I’ve always wanted to build an online business but hadn’t focused on it until recently. Now that I’m working towards that goal, my only regret is not getting starting sooner.
We fear failure because, as children, we get punished for mistakes and are discouraged from colouring outside of the lines. On top of this, failure is embarrassing, so we try to avoid it. But, on the other hand, we can’t do anything about regrets because they are mistakes from the past that we can no longer change.
If you are afraid to try, the only way to get over that fear is to take action. If you don’t take action, fear grows within your mind and becomes a regret.
If you’ve ever been afraid of failure, keep reading as I will show you how regret is worse.
Failure Teach Lessons While Regret Cause Pain
My daughter sometimes says, “you never know if you never know,” and while I realize that sentence doesn’t make much sense, it does point to the crux of regret. We never know what we could accomplish or do until we try it out and see where we can go.
But never knowing is worse than failure because it is an unknown, which means it could be good or bad.
As a teenaged boy, I was timid, especially around girls, and while my experience isn’t unique, it can provide an excellent example of failure and regret. I had a crush on a girl throughout high school; let’s call her Sarah, but I was always afraid to talk to her.
Over the years, we had some interactions, but I never once told her how I felt, though she might have known. Because of this fear, I had regret and self-doubt for years, but I never did anything about it.
Later in university, I had a couple of girlfriends, so I wasn’t afraid of asking someone on a date. By chance, I ran into Sarah, we talked, and I asked her on a date. Without any hesitation, she said no. At the time, it hurt, but after a while, it made me feel better because I didn’t have anything to regret anymore.
On top of this, I learnt an important lesson, if you like someone, ask them out, but don’t wait and let it stew; that only makes it worse.
While my story is typical, it helps put things into perspective. When we are fearful of things, we feel paralyzed, so we don’t take action, but this means that we don’t evolve. Instead, we stay standing still while the world moves on without us. Indeed, we will move forward in other ways, but there will always be that thorn of regret.
Asking Sarah out in high school would have saved me years of regret; it would have also taught me that lesson much earlier. When we push doing things off, we avoid dealing with them, and so in a way, we make them more significant than they indeed are.
Asking someone out, on the grand scale of things, is pretty inconsequential, but when we think about it for days, weeks, months or years, it can causing a lot of pain and disappointment.
When we are afraid to fail, we are frightened to try, but what can we gain without effort? At least when we try to do something, we are taking fate into our own hands, but if we don’t, we are a victim of our fate. At times, we may self rationalize, “if I just wait, I’ll get what I want.” But we all eventually realize that never happens; instead, we wait, feel regret, build up fear and stay where we are.
Every time we do something new, we can learn one of two things: we can either discover what works and what we should do more of or else we learn what doesn’t work and what we should avoid.
While learning what we should avoid can be painful at times, the pain doesn’t last long and often gives us some guidance on where we should go next.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that I was trying to start an online business. While it has taken me a long time to get here, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been learning along the way. Instead, I’ve failed many times and learnt a lot of lessons. Full disclosure, I’ve probably tried to start five businesses online, and while some made money, they all ended up failing.
But what I did learn along the way was that I liked writing and creating content; it gives me satisfaction and feels like an accomplishment. In some ways, I regret not having started sooner, as I’d be much further ahead at this point if I had.
At the same time, if I hadn’t failed along the way, I wouldn’t have realized what it was that I was supposed to do. The reality is that failure doesn’t matter too much as long as we are making progress along the way.
Failure Leads to Growth; Regret Means Standing Still
You’ve likely heard of a growth mindset, but if not, it simply means that our brains or minds are not fixed in place and can always grow and improve. Whether or not this is true is open to debate, but clearly, we get better at the things that we work on and stagnate when we do nothing.
What is essential to remember is that we are giving ourselves a chance to learn and improve every time we try to do something. While we can’t always be sure that we will succeed, we can be sure that we will move forward if we try.
Every failure is a learning experience; it shows us what works and what doesn’t, so in a way, it tells us what we should do more of and what we should avoid.
When we don’t try to do new things, we are often left with a feeling of regret. I can’t count all the times I’ve wondered what things would be like if I had made different choices in the past. And while every opportunity can result in success or failure, we are ensuring and even guaranteeing failure when we don’t try.
If we don’t take a chance, then we miss out on learnings, so instead of improving, we continue to stand still in the same place.
Regret is worse than failure because we can’t do anything about the things that we regret; indeed, we might get new opportunities to make different choices, but the past is still the past; it is gone forever. On the other hand, failure always has the potential for different outcomes; we can choose to learn or dwell. But in the end, we still learn something.
If we want to improve our lives and move forward, we need to be willing to take action; we need to be ready to take chances.
And while doing things can lead to failure, it can also lead to success, and we all want success; however, we decided to define it for ourselves.
What is most important to remember is that life is about moving forward, so we can go with the flow or try to fight it. But if we fight it, that is going to lead to nothing but regret and pain. Whereas if we focus on moving forward, there will be ups and downs, we might fail, but at least we won’t stay in the same place.
How to Stop Regretting
- Say Yes – Obviously, there are times when it is a good idea to say no, but most of the time, saying yes will open us up to new opportunities and experiences.
- Do what scares you – we often stay in our comfort zones, which makes sense cause it is easy, but usually, the most significant rewards are found in parts unknown.
- Respect your desires – If you want something, go and get it; clearly, there are some things that we can’t have, but it’s often easy to ignore what we want ourselves and do what others expect of us.
- Be impulsive – Sometimes, we put off what we want for whatever reasons, but sometimes it is worth trusting our guts and going with the flow.
If we fear failure, we are destined to live lives of regret, take reasonable risks and work towards what matters most to you.