In high school, I scored my first employment as a sacker in a grocery store called United Supermarkets. At the time, the company was family owned and very conducive to a high school and college schedule. They allowed students to work on weekends and school breaks in order to continue with their studies and extracurricular activities.
Depending on the length of the shift, we were allowed at least 1, 15 minute break. The back wall of the breakroom held a sign for our reading pleasure (Yes, printed material. I’m not that old but I do remember the days before smartphones.), something to the effect of “20 Things I Wish I Would Have Known.” There were many tips on the list that I cannot remember but one I have kept in my pocket ever since: “When you look back on life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.”
The first time I remember this truth being put into action was by giving a speech at my high school graduation. I was the valedictorian (okay, there were only 24 people in my class) and it was customary for the top two students to each give a speech. I explored every possible scenario to escape this terrible tradition. I even debated a straight-up refusal. After all, no one could actually make me stand in front of hundreds of people and speak. But, after many hours spent in the breakroom reading the sign, the thought of possible regret had taken root and I decided the only thing worse than giving a speech was the failure to do so.
The speech was 3 minutes long. Yep. But I did it.
Years later, I still mull over the quote and wonder which activities I am doing now-or failing to do now-will leave regret. Obviously hindsight is 20-20, but what if we stopped in the moment of a choice and remembered that quote? I like to play out situations and choose ones that have the highest probability of success. But sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and move forward in spite of difficulty or fear.
“When you look back on life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.” Keep that in your pocket. You just never know when you will need it.
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