I write this article as reminder for myself to keep following my heart.
Regret is a funny thing.
When we think about something major we want to do — start a business, change careers, move, etc. — we think about how much we’ll regret making that decision if it doesn’t work out. We’re afraid we’ll regret doing what we want to do. The path seems uncertain, the future unpredictable.
But when we look back, what we regret are the things we didn’t do: the business we didn’t start, the career change we didn’t make, the move we didn’t make. We don’t usually regret the things we did, because even if we made a huge mistake, we can fix it. We regret the things we didn’t do. We regret the times we didn’t take a chance on ourselves.
If you have a great opportunity and the only thing holding you back is the thought of moving, move. If you want to be closer to family or friends and the only thing holding you back is the thought of moving, move. If you want to be closer to people who think and feel and act like you, move.
Don’t worry; you’ll soon find cool new places to hang out. You’ll soon develop new routines. You’ll soon make new friends. When the fear of moving is the only thing holding you back, move. You’ll meet cool new people, do cool new things, and gain a cool new perspective on your life.
Still not convinced that following your heart is the right approach where major personal decisions are concerned? Here’s Bezos, CEO of Amazon, the richest man on earth:
I went to my boss at the time and I really liked my job, and I told my boss I was going to start doing this thing, do an internet bookstore and I had already told my wife and she’s like, “Great, let’s go,” and I said to my boss and he’s like, ‘”I think this is a good idea, but I think this would be an even better idea for somebody that didn’t already have a good job.”
For me, the right way to make that kind of very personal decision, because those decisions are personal, they’re not like data-driven business decisions. They are, “What does your heart say?”
And for me, the best way to think about it was to project myself forward to age 80 and say, “Look, when I’m 80 years old, I want to have minimized the number of regrets that I have.” I don’t want to be 80 years old and in a quiet moment of reflection, thinking back over my life, and cataloguing a bunch of major regrets.
In most cases our biggest regrets turn out to be acts of omission. It’s paths not taken and they haunt us. We wonder what would have happened. I knew that when I’m 80, I would never regret trying this thing (quitting a good job to start Amazon) that I was super excited about and it failing.
If it failed, fine. I would be very proud of the fact when I’m 80 that I tried. And I also knew that it would always haunt me if I didn’t try. And so that would be a regret, it would be 100 percent chance of regret if I didn’t try and basically a 0 percent chance of regret if I tried and failed. That’s a useful metric for any important life decision.