You Don’t Have to Regret Bad Decisions

Figure out what you can learn from them instead.

I have a ceiling fan in my downstairs bathroom that operates on the same single switch as the bathroom light instead of on a separate switch. At the time of installation, the electrician asked if I’d prefer a single or double switch and I said, “Whatever is easier.” I didn’t realize then that always having the fan on with the light would annoy me. That it would be loud and cold when taking a bath. The wires have since been covered up by a second-floor addition so I am stuck with my choice. What I’m working on not being stuck with is regret.

I think that the more a decision bothers us, the more there is that we can learn from it. In the case of the ceiling fan, I was a new homeowner, new to hiring help, and I was trying to be nice and make the electrician’s job easier. I’ve since gotten choosier in who I hire and I’ve gotten better at asking questions so that I can visualize the outcome.

It is a typical reaction to be hard on ourselves for our bad decisions. We like to replay the scenario in our head for days, weeks, or even on and off for years. If only we had chosen differently. That isn’t a helpful use of our mind.

We could just ask ourselves, “What would I do differently next time?” Figure out our answer, make a mental note of it, and move on. When a similar situation comes up, and it will at some point, we can draw on what we learned.

I met with a different electrician recently for my upcoming kitchen renovation and I asked a lot of questions. Because of my previous blunder, I knew this time to ask for what I wanted and see if it was possible. The electrician and I problem-solved a scenario for a device-charging drawer. We discussed several options before coming up with one that both of us agreed was the best. I was better prepared for this process because of the mistake I made the last time.

Since I know I’m not the only one to hold onto regret for a poor decision, I’m going to admit that it has been 15 years since my ceiling fan was wired and I’m finally able to drop the regret and see the learning experience. If you have a long-held regret, you can ask yourself right now about it, figure out the lesson in it, and understand that bad decisions have some way of serving us.

Is there a decision that you made that still irks you?

What would you do differently next time?


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Originally published at www.everydayessays.com.