People ask if I regret any of my tattoos. Why would I regret them? I mean that literally—what would it even mean to regret a tattoo? As in, it’s a decision I made in the past that I can’t now un-make, and I no longer agree with? Isn’t that applicable to all decisions?
Regret is pointless. It serves no function, just a small step away from its close cousin guilt. It is a projected emotion foisted upon the undeserving masses by those trying to leverage a moral ranking of superiority.
Regret is often an offshoot of fear—fear of being wrong and making an incorrect decision. Also a useless emotion. It is there to guide us in times when rational thought is too slow, when we don’t have all the facts yet still have to pull the trigger. We have been taught to be skeptical, to defer judgment, to remain “open-minded”.
Dying people lie too. Wish they’d worked less, been nicer, opened orphanages for kittens. If you really want to do something, you do it. You don’t save it for a sound bite
But decisions don’t wait, and life can’t be paused while we gather all the necessary data to ensure 100% accuracy. Life continues to roll on, to pass us, to move and change. And those that choose to live, will make choices and decisions to the best of their abilities, given the totality of the facts in front of them at any given moment. They will not be afraid. And if and when they choose incorrectly, they will not regret their choice. They will simply learn from it, and choose better next time.
Right and wrong do exist. Just because you don’t know what the right answer is—maybe there’s even no way you could know what the right answer is—doesn’t make your answer right or even okay. It’s much simpler than that. It’s just plain wrong.
Despite this fact, House never stops to question himself. He simply moves on. He decides, to the best of his ability, at any given moment, in any given situation. And he lives without regrets. Gather the facts, make the decision, apply the decision, gather more facts—the gears move, the cycle repeats.
The only wrong action is inaction. The only wrong decision is indecision. Life is a process of movement and change and forward progression, not staleness and stillness. To be frozen into skepticism and inaction due to fear of wrongness is to lie down and die. To take steps—even wrong steps—is not only okay and admissible, but necessary. It’s how we learn the right way. One will stumble while learning to walk, and soon thereafter sprint. Removing fear allows for progress and success. And the concomitant orientation is the rejection of regret as an after-effect. To live, and learn, and move, and breathe—is to live. And the only thing I could ever regret, is committing myself to not living.
I love my stories of failure and missed opportunities as much as I love my stories of success. I simply love my stories, per se. They are what brought me to this current-day, like a roadmap of circled towns along the path from beginning to end, hiccups, stutters, falters, breaks. They dot the lining of my life. Same with my tattoos: regardless of the content, regardless of my association with them, they are the signposts of my life, the Post-It notes with details of where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where I currently stand. They let me know that I have lived a life, rather than let one walk right past me.
Decisiveness implies an ability to pull the trigger and make a decision, even when it’s not fun. A decision made leads to an effect, which then requires another decision to be made. Like a complex math problem, life is a series of these decisions that lead one from the variables to a final summation or end product, where one can lie back and smile: no embarrassment of the past, no regrets of missed opportunities, and no fear of future endeavors. A true living-in-the-moment orientation, with brief reference to past and future, reference to either side of the timeline, and the primary emotions filling one’s day: joy, and eagerness, and excitement, and anticipation for future joy—and of course, when looking back, a certain pride and fondness for all past decisions, without pain, or fear, or regret.
-David A. Johnston
David Johnston is the founder and lead trainer of TEAM Warrior Within. You can also listen to him weekely on the GEARD Up podcast. ( GEARDUp.com ) David works with clients ranging from the everyday person just trying to lose weight and get healthy, local and national bodybuilding and physique competitors, to IFBB professional athletes.
David lives and breathes all things related to physique transformation, and has devoted nearly half of his life to passionately studying and educating himself to be the absolute best at what he does. His intensity in the gym is matched only by the passion he gives to his clients.