Have you ever done something at a particular point in time that you didn’t consider to be the best thing to do at that particular point in time? I am not talking about looking back on something you did and, while you are looking back, you come to realize that it might not have been the most reasonable thing to do. No, I am talking about deciding at a particular point in time to do some something: something you believe to be the best thing to do at that particular point in time. Now, let me ask you: given that you always do what you consider to be the best thing to do at a particular point in time, how then can you – at a later point in time – decide that what you choose to do was not the best decision after all? How can you regret having made a decision that you considered to be reasonable at the point in time when you actually had to make the decision? Is it even reasonable to have regrets? And if so, when? Let’s take a look at that.
You choose to go study Business after you finished high school. After a year or two, you come to realize that this is not where you heart lies: you are not as enthusiastic anymore as you were when you started the study. You decide to switch studies: you go study philosophy. Now, two years after you’ve started studying, you finally have found the area where you heart lies. You start thinking about how nice it might have been if you would have started studying philosophy right away. And then you ask yourself the ultimate question: do I regret my choice for studying Business? And although you might be inclined to say that you did, you cannot speak the words out load. And the reason you can’t do so is the following: you have chosen to do what you considered to be best at that particular point in time. You have consciously thought about the options you had and you decided – given the information and feelings you had at that particular point in time – to go study Business. Now, looking back on those two years, you have come to realize that this study doesn’t fit who you really are. But this looking back experience isn’t something you had when you started your academic journey. You feel relieved: you have come to understand that you simply cannot regret the decision you have made.
The thing that is at work here is time and its ever forward flowing motion. And a consequence of this unstoppable and uni-directional movement of time is that you cannot escape it; you always are positioned somewhere within time. And since time – like a moving train – is always in motion, you cannot escape the fact that the world you live in keeps on changing. Today is different from tomorrow, just like the landscape a train moved through two hours ago is different from the one it is driving through right now. And it is because of this inherent change of the world we live in, that you constantly have to make decisions. After all, why would you have to keep on making decisions if nothing in you world would have changed? You would only have to decide once, right? Once; at the start of your journey. And this is where the analogy with the train breaks down; because where the train has to follow the track as it is layed down in front of it, we are free (or doomed) to choose where we want to go. The only thing we cannot choose, is not to chose. Because even if we decide not to choose, we are in fact making a choice.
But what has this to do with having regrets? Well, given that you are at a certain point on your very own track called life, and you are forced to make a decision where to go next, how then can you ever regret the choice you make at this particular point in time? Not based on the “unintended consequences” that came about, right? Because you didn’t know the unintended consequences and you didn’t choose for these unintended consequences, right? You didn’t choose for Business turning out not to be your kind of study. That simply was an unintended consequence of your decision to start studying Business. But even in case of more severe (negative) unintended consequences, this line of reasoning holds; even if you were driving in your car, taking a side-turn and suddenly hit a drunk woman that recklessly crossed the street and she would die, you cannot regret your decision to have taken this side-turn. You were forced to make a decision in time and you chose to take the turn. Why? Because that was the direction you had to go to in order for you to reach your destination. But what about the girl? She died, right? That seems something that could make you regret your decision? Well, you didn’t choose to hit the girl, right? It was an unintended consequence of your decision. A consequence that you didn’t choose for at the point in time you had to make the decision. It was not a consequence you could have reasonably taken into consideration.
The moral of this story? Don’t regret what you did not choose for. Shit happens. As long as you were not choosing the shit that happened, you cannot blame yourself.
But what do you think?