(One decision I've never regretted is getting Murphy, my family's first dog.
I was something like four months and seventy-five pages into the book I was writing when it hit me: I was actually writing two books at the same time. Puzzled, I looked over my ideas, how they flowed together and where I thought they were going, and then went to find Joe. "I swear to you, hon. I'm writing two different books at the same time," I said. "You're probably writing more than that," he told me as he absently clicked through the channels on our TV to find something worth watching. "It's going to be painful, but you need to look over everything you've written and try to separate the ideas into separate things." Ugh. Not what I wanted to hear. Writing is what I do, after all. It's what I love. It comes naturally to me. But writing a book? Easier said than done. Particularly when my mind works faster than my fingers. Which it does.
What I realized is this. The main book I'm writing is about happiness. It's about things that I've discovered throughout my life, through the stories I've told bout other people's lives, that have given me a positive view of the world, even when that world so often feels off the rails. And I'm not kidding when I tell you this. I wholly believe happiness is within everyone's grasp. Regardless of how much money you make, where you live, what you dream about, or how you choose to go after those dreams. We all have the ability to be happy. To live positively. To love waking up every day, seeing the world around us as a place of endless opportunity! So I blocked out my hypothesis on paper. If happiness is, by and large, a CHOICE, then how do we choose it? How do we decide to be happy and positive when life so often serves us crap sandwiches? I whittled my beliefs down to ten things. Ten steps. Ten ideas that I truly believe will help even the most negative person start to see their life's glass as half-full.
Not to give these ideas away, I will tell you that one of the concepts is to live without regret. It sounds easy enough, right? Whoa. It's not. A really interesting survey of older Americans (and I use "older" purposefully here, because the author of this particular study considered his seventy-ish year-old participants "elderly." My parents are in their seventies. If I called them elderly, I'm pretty sure my mother would kick me.) The older respondents were asked what they wish they could have done differently in their lives. Not surprisingly, the majority of the things the people surveyed said they regretted weren't things they'd done, or decisions they'd made, but rather things they hadn't done. Opportunities they didn't go after. A love they hadn't pursued. Time they hadn't spent with their families. Trips they didn't take. Things they hadn't taken the time to go after. Dreams they hadn't had the guts to give a shot.
Regret is a lousy thing. Mostly because it's ever-lasting. We can regret poor financial decisions, sure, but that kind of regret is fleeting. We tend to get over it or, at the very least, let it fade from memory. Regretting things we were either too lazy to go after or too insecure to try for and fail at leaves a long-lasting bitterness in one's mouth. We never quite get over it.
How do I know this? Well... I can tell you that I have very few regrets that have to do with inaction. I've made more than my fair share of poor decisions, without a doubt. To this day, I do more things wrong than I do right. But failing to act? Failing to go after something so outlandishly out of reach that I'll certainly never get it? Failing to go after a man in a bar with whom I'd fallen in love the minute I saw him? I don't regret those things. Because I went after each and every one of them. That man, in less than eighteen months, became my husband. That job that was so outlandishly out of reach? I landed that, too. National TV in New York City. (I hated it, what a blessing. So many people in journalism work their whole lives to make it there. I started there and quickly got the heck out.) And the commercial I auditioned for - I just got. Hilarious. I never imagined I'd be on a commercial. Why the heck not?
So, if there's something you really want, regardless of what it is, go for it. You'll regret it if you don't. And once you grasp this whole concept of taking charge of your own happiness and believing in it, the more you'll achieve. The more positive you'll be. The less the opinions of others will affect you.
I think you're going to like this book I'm writing. I really do. No. I know you will. And if you don't? So be it. I'll never regret writing it.