Diary of Regret

When I was young, I kept a “Diary of Regret” and tried to record my mistakes day by day, but there was never a day when I didn’t have twenty or thirty entries. As there was no end to it, I gave up. Even today, when I think about the day’s affairs after going to bed, there is never a day when I do not make some blunder in speaking or in some activity. Living without mistakes is truly impossible. But this is something that people who live by cleverness have no inclination to think about.


There has been a push in the last bunch of years towards positive reinforcement in the workplace. And that’s not a fluke or just a random trend. Real studies have shown that people perform better at work with positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement, yelling and punishing and threatening and belittling, yields negative results. So, given that’s true, why would you beat yourself up for your own mistakes? Why would you live your life filled with regret? That’s going to yield negative results in your personal life. It’s worse for you.

I know there are very different people around the world into many different things…but I can’t imagine too many people are writing down the things they did wrong every day. But so many of us harp on our own mistakes. We keep a mental diary of regret…of all the things big and small that we have done wrong.

I understand that everyone makes mistakes. If anyone read my Facebook quote over the weekend, you would know that I agree with William Connor Magee when he said that, “Those who don’t do not make mistakes usually do not make anything.” I know if you’re pushing the limits of your capabilities, which is a good thing, you will definitely make mistakes. And you learn from mistakes. And that’s a good thing.

But the idea is to learn from them, then shut the door on them. Take the lesson. And leave everything else behind.

If there is one thing I’ve done well in my life, it’s I rarely have regretted decisions that I made.  I used to think I was fortunate to live a life of making all the right decisions. I was wrong. I made plenty of mistakes and wrong moves. I just took what was a wrong decision and turned it into the right one. Or never considered again, the option that I never took.

So many religions harp on what not to do. They tell you what you should be doing, but they emphasize and threaten you for bad behavior. This is the wrong strategy. This is setting you up for a life filled with regret.

It’s not ‘do not kill’…it’s ‘treat every life like it’s precious.’ It’s not ‘do not cheat on a significant other’…it’s celebrate your love for them. It’s not ‘don’t eat fried foods’…it’s ‘eat more fruits and vegetables.’ I know this sounds like I’m saying the same thing. It’s not. The effect it has on you is not the same. If you really like fried food, it’s not easy to stop eating it. But eating more fruits and vegetables doesn’t sound so hard. Because that’s not. Diets are mostly about what you can’t eat. When they should be structured around what you can eat. What you should eat.

It’s time to focus on the positive. What did you do right today? What did you do right yesterday? What did you do right in success? What did you do right, even in failure? Go with that. Don’t shape your behavior around what you shouldn’t be doing, build your life around what you should be doing.