Either, I think it’s going to be exciting or I think I’m going to regret it if…. is what comes to mind when making a decision to take action or no action. Regret is a weird one. It stands as a motivator to not make the same mistake again but what purpose does it have when you’re too old or incapable to redeem yourself? Sitting there wishing you did this and that only causes grief that you take to the grave. Perhaps once you’re filled with regret and cannot do anything about it, it’s mother nature’s way of saying your life is over so hurry up and die or she’ll make you hate yourself until you do.
It almost seems that we base our major life decisions according to how we think we will feel about them in the distant future. You’re given a fact sheet and you play by the odds, succumb to irrational fears or just live for the day. Possible regret is often treated like life long credit card debt and cancer from smoking cigarettes…you seize the comfort now to defer the possible discomfort in the future. Maybe it won’t happen anyway, right?
The time variable plays into the equation of regret. If you think you have time then you think you have hope, and if you think you have hope then regret will not fully manifest itself. Having time and hope is often the reason to procrastinate. There’s 364 days to buy Christmas gifts but the shopping malls are their busiest on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, in life the opportunities hardly ever present themselves the day before it’s too late nor will you be notified ahead of time when it will be too late.
For some people the whole point of life is to not have any regrets or at least none that eat them up. To admit regret for the life you lived without providing a consolation for your ego is not an honour one accepts graciously. If you’re smart enough or dumb enough then you can always find ways to alleviate any potential regrets with your rationalizations. If you can’t get what you want then you can change how you feel about it.
The only evolutionary benefit of regret when the game cannot be played again is being able to tell the younger generations to not do what you did. Knowledge is a survival skill that gets passed on and if the elders of your tribe don’t have useful knowledge then you’re at a disadvantage. Perhaps then, if one is not willing to admit their regrets it’s just as detrimental to the survival of their loved ones just as it would be to teach them incorrectly how to hunt and gather. Maybe the dissolution of the ego is an overlooked survival trait.