Regret Nothing!

Late last year I took my wife and three children to Australia’s Gold Coast for a family holiday.  As well as sunshine and sandy beaches, the area boasts a number of different theme parks – MovieWorld, SeaWorld, DreamWorld – just to name a few.

We’d been once before, four years earlier, and I’d spent the whole holiday watching my three toddlers (the oldest was four) cozy up to SpongeBob Squarepants and ride little children sized trains – which, let’s be honest, is not most grown men’s definition of ‘exciting’.  Not this time!  This time, I was determined to go on a rollercoaster with my son, Harrison – who had just turned seven, but, as it turned out, was still only tall enough to qualify for one ride in particular – which rather limited my options.  Now, logically – you would assume that if you’re not tall enough to ride any roller coaster except ONE – then that roller coaster must therefore be the least scary and the least intense of the lot – correct?

Well you would be wrong.  And so was I.  And let me tell you – my seven-year-old son did not overly appreciate riding the fastest, longest and highest roller coaster in the southern hemisphere.  He did not appreciate it one bit!

So – the next day, (a tad traumatized) he flatly refused to get on a comparatively innocuous ride (yes, comparative to the only Hypercoaster on our side of the planet but you know what I mean) – one that I knew he could handle, and one that I knew he would enjoy.

I tried everything.  I encouraged him, I bribed him, I even got a little grumpy (at one point).

He. Was. Not. Interested.

Eventually I sat him down and said; “Buddy – I’m going to give it to you straight.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow – but a time will come when you look back on this holiday, maybe we’re flicking through photos, and we’ll come across a photo of your sister on this ride, and your mum, and me – but not you; and you’ll think to yourself: “I wish I’d done it.  I wish I hadn’t said ‘No’.” but there’ll be nothing you can do about it.  It will be too late.” 

Here’s the interesting thing about regret – the vast majority that we carry in life is not a result of things we’ve done – it’s almost always the result of things we haven’t done.  It’s the risks and chances we didn’t take, the choices we didn’t make.  Our ‘psychological immune system’ helps us recover from bad experiences quicker than maybe we thought we would; we rationalize and reframe the way we think to accommodate what we’ve been through – but those tricks don’t really help us get over never having tried something in the first place.

So next time you’re faced with a decision, and the easy option is to just bail, remember that more often than not:

a) It’s not as bad as you think, and
b) Even if it is you’re stronger and more resilient than you know, and
c) Regret sucks!

Harrison got on the ride.  And after that – he got on it again, and again – in fact he rode it five times.

The moral of the story?  I won.  Oh – wait, no – it was about regret…

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