Want To Avoid Living With Regrets? This Small Mindset Tweak Will Work Wonders
What is an action? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as "a thing done." I like this definition—so simple, so clear, so concise. An action has two distinct phases: an intention and an execution. Before we act, we must first have intention: "What is our purpose for doing this? What are we hoping to achieve? What is the motivation behind it?" Only then should we execute: "What is the best method for getting it done?"
This process applies to the smallest of actions and the grandest and can happen hundreds of times every day, often in a split second. For example, say you’re hungry. You don’t just magically get full—first, you must eat something. This is an action: You act by eating food. But before you do that, you need to have a clear intention.
Let’s break it down.
What is the intention?
If I eat this sandwich, I won’t be hungry.
What is the execution?
Make a sandwich, eat the sandwich, and now I’m not hungry.
Do you recognize the stages? They may happen almost simultaneously, but each stage is there. With clear intention, our choices in execution are considered. Oftentimes, without the intention we simply react without thinking, and the outcomes can be less than ideal. A reaction, on the other hand, is a response. It’s an action that usually affects us and plays on our tempers, placing our bodies into postures and positions with full awareness and accountability—and in life we should be doing the same.
When you act with intention, you're less likely to feel regret.
The idea of regret is one we all know and try to avoid. Regret isn’t a good feeling because we know we could have done better or achieved a more positive outcome. We’re human. We don’t need to be perfect, but we can do our best to see how our choices and actions best serve and support our lives instead of regretting those we made when reacting to something. There are some things in life that you can’t take back, so act carefully.
But what is regret? For me, regret is the idea that I should have done something differently. It’s often quite clear after the fact that our choices at the time could have been different. Sometimes, it may have been our egos getting in the way or choices we made in the heat of the moment—these are the moments that we define as regrets.
But what if we defined our actions differently? Rather than labeling them as regrets, what if we acknowledged them simply as experiences to learn from? Yes, we can all acknowledge that our choices could have been better, but regret keeps us looking back instead of moving us forward. With a simple shift in approach, we can start to live life without the burden of regret.
How yoga can help you act with intention.
How does this apply to yoga? In yoga, we always move consciously, maneuvering our bodies into postures and positions with awareness and accountability. But there will be a time when you might go too far or push too hard. Often, this results in injury that may sideline your practice for a day or even weeks. This has happened to me plenty of times over the years and to many yogis I know.
Once, I fell while I was in crow pose. I wasn’t paying attention, my hands slipped, and I twisted my wrist. I couldn’t practice that pose for almost six months. It would have been easy to get angry, regret the decisions I made when I was practicing, or try to blame the teachers for not giving me the option to try something different, or just let the frustration win. But the truth is, these were my actions, my choices, and my decision, regardless of how mindful.
I was in my actions. I may not have liked what happened, but looking back, I learned something about myself. The experience wasn’t pleasant, but it was valuable. I now know my limits, and I now always approach this pose with my full attention because I know what will happen if I’m not aware and mindful of my actions. So choose wisely, live without regrets, and learn from every experience. This is how we can live mindfully every single day.
Based on excerpts from Sit Down, Be Quiet by Michael James Wong, with the permission of Thorsons, a subsidiary of Harper Collins UK. Copyright © 2018.