‘What did you do yesterday?’
‘‘Aaah, I hung out, drank some beer and watched TV’’.
Or perhaps the answer might be more like this, ‘‘Well I got off my butt and went for a two hour walk. The leaves have changed colour and it was awesome. Got a bit wet in the rain but it was invigorating and I stopped off for a coffee on the way home – awesome morning.’’
‘Do More Now’ is a cousin of the ‘Be Here Now’ mindfulness approach. It can be a great prod if you tend to choose the easy, familiar path rather than a challenge that might take you out of your comfort zone.
Without embarking on a scientific study, I’ll venture that people regret what they don’t do more than they regret what they do do.
In 2011 two researchers set about trying to figure out what the typical American regrets most.
In telephone surveys, Neal Roese, a psychologist and professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Mike Morrison, a doctoral candidate in psychology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, asked 370 Americans, aged 19 to 103, to talk about their most notable regret. Participants were asked what the regret was, when it happened, whether it was a result of something they did or didn’t do, and whether it was something that could still be fixed.
If you google this study, you’ll find the results: the most commonly cited regrets involved romance (18%) — lost loves or unfulfilled relationships. Family regrets came in second (16%), with people still feeling badly about being mean to their siblings in childhood. Other frequently reported regrets involved career (13%), education (12%), money (10%) and parenting (9%).
Broken down by gender, more women (44%) than men (19%) had regrets about love and family — not surprising, since women “value social relationships more than men,” the authors write. In contrast, men (34%) were more likely than women (27%) to cite work-related regrets, wishing they’d chosen a different career path, for instance, or followed their passion.
Many respondents also reported wishing they had worked less to spend more time with their children.
The researchers found individuals regret lost opportunities the most. The regret of inaction tended to endure.
Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
But quote of the week goes to American author and director of the Wise Woman Center in New York state Susun Weed, who talks about balance and change.
‘‘We like fixity, and dislike change. Nature knows that fixity is death. Life is change. Balance is the step before death. Life is dynamic disequilibrium, never static. Life grows, changes, ages, gets diseased, rots, molds, and is recycled into more life; it is never perfect, never done. Life is chaotic. Death is rigid. It resists and refuses to interact; it holds itself aloof; it is in control.
Nature is chaotic. It doesn’t like straight lines. When I am in the woods, the path curves, the trees have fallen helter-skelter, the wildflowers bloom in impossible, improbable places, there is always a miracle. To describe the living presence of Nature in her creative chaotic wholeness, we can use the words “deva” and “fairy.” Fairies flee gardens planted in neat rows. To attract fairies, practice being at ease with being a little out of control.’’
There’s no right and wrong way to do things.
Our days are swamped with choices, big and small from what you spread on your toast, to relationships, investments and your career moves. Some say follow your heart, others will say feel it in your gut, the more pragmatic will say look to your head and choose your battles carefully.
Choice involves courage and weighing up consequences. It’s up to you: but remember what Susun Weed says, ‘‘Fairies only frolic in wild places, so leave a little corner of your cultivated land wild—a ‘Fairy Corner’ where chaos can reign.’’