Never regret

14 Mar

I have recently been thinking about to what extend we can influence what is happening to us, if we should do so and how we should react if things don’t go as planned. Here is what I came up with.

Let me start more generally. When making a decision, we either do what we feel is right or we think of our objectives, generate some alternatives, assess how likely they are to help us in achieving those objectives and decide accordingly. From there on, things can go either well or not so well. It is however very important to separate the decision making process and the decision itself from outcomes of that decision for we can directly influence the former but not the latter. It follows therefore, that if we took the best decision possible at the time when we had to make it, we should never regret having taken it regardless on the outcome of that decision.

Influence what you can and don’t worry about the rest

With this in mind we can see that there are certain things we can influence by the decisions we make and our actions resulting from those and certain things we cannot influence – they just happen. You can call it fate, good or bad luck or whatever is appropriate in your culture. The first important point here is that you have to accept that there are things you cannot influence and therefore you should not worry about them. You should just accept them. The trick then lies in where we draw the line.

And here comes the second point – always do the best you can. That is the the best we can with the resources available such as time, intellectual capacity, money or influence at the time. You will have to make some trade offs but if they appear to be the most sensible actions to take at the time when things are happening, then that’s exactly what they are. If things go well, perfect. If they don’t, we should learn from the past but never regret having done what we did. The dots might connect just a little bit later on.

Here is a recent example from my life. I got to a final round of interviews with BCG, a leading strategy consultancy, and I really wanted that job. I spent almost all my time in the three weeks preceding that interview preparing for it and when I was entering their offices, I felt I have prepared the best I could have. Eventually, I did not end up getting an offer from them. I could have been regretting the fact I did not get it or that I spent all that time in preparation for nothing but that would defeat the whole point. I did the best I could have done and what made most sense at the time. I had nothing to regret and was able to look forward to other opportunities. I now have two other great consulting offers and most importantly, a clear mind.

So to summarise, the key to never regretting is acting in a way so that we never have to. That is doing the best we can right now to maximise the sphere of our influence and accept that from there on, things will just happen and there is nothing we can do about it.

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