The whole “no regrets” movement may have gone too far.
“Regret, if understood properly, can actually be healthy — and even morally virtuous,” writes Psychology Today contributor Mark D. White.
While there’s no benefit to wallowing in despair day in and day out, subjecting past decisions to dispassionate analysis is key to self-improvement. You won’t truly learn from a mistake, however embarrassing, without first acknowledging what went wrong and putting a plan in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The inevitable passage of time all but guarantees that your cumulative regret load will grow as you age. The only thing better than working past these regrets is avoiding them in the first place. And there’s plenty of opportunities to do so while you’re still relatively young.
These seven bits of salutary advice won’t completely eliminate your mistake-making potential. To do that, they’d have to somehow render you inhuman. But they could well prevent or mitigate some common missteps made by over-ambitious entrepreneurs and rising corporate stars.
1. Surround Yourself With People Smarter Than You
They won’t necessarily keep you out of trouble, but they might open your eyes to strategies or solutions that you’d never considered. Always remember that book smarts and street smarts are wholly distinct. Once you’re in a position to install capable people underneath you, look beyond the fancy degrees.
2. Don’t Be Afraid of Dissent or Redirection
Cultivate an atmosphere of (respectful) debate. Groupthink is an insidious condition that can have dangerous, potentially fatal repercussions for businesses in competitive industries. If you want as full a picture as possible of the possibilities and risks behind a specific course of action, you need to listen (and not retaliate) when people say “no.”
3. Eat Healthy (and Consistently)
Entrepreneur and investor Kris Duggan wishes he’d begun eating healthier as a young man. This might sound like a “duh” bit of advice, but we all know how difficult it can be to work square, nourishing meals into a 5-to-9 schedule.
4. Get More Exercise
This is another no-brainer that’s way harder to implement in practice. Productivity-minded entrepreneurs usually exercise at set times, most often at the beginning or end of the workday. Don’t be afraid of those weekend gym visits, either — you’ll likely have more time for a leisurely workout then anyway.
5. Be More Generous With Your Time
Remember to stop and smell the roses every so often. Find a worthy organization to support with more than just the occasional check — whether that means ladling out meals at your local soup kitchen or setting up tables and chairs for that charity bingo night you wouldn’t miss for the world.
6. Don’t Get a Big Head
In a statement to SUCCESS Magazine, personal finance guru Dave Ramsey says he’d tell his younger self that “he isn’t nearly as important as he thinks he is.” That’s prelude to a longer-winded bit of advice about never giving up, but it’s useful to remember in its own right. You share this world with billions of other people, all of whom have just as much business being here as you do.
7. Don’t Worry About What You Can’t Control
This is controversial advice for successful business people used to bending reality to their whims.
Look: no matter how charismatic you are or how good life has been to you, you’ll never have total control over your domain. Worrying about things you absolutely can’t change, like the weather, is simply a waste of your limited emotional resources. Use that energy to plan contingencies.
Failure Isn’t Final
Don’t mistake this list of regret-busting tips for what it’s not: an admonition against failure in any form. Everyone suffers setbacks. It’s what you make of them — whether you get up and dust yourself off after falling down — that determines their legacy. Life is short, but not short enough to go on wallowing forever.