Sooner or Later You Will Learn From Your Regrets

Have you ever looked back at times and moments in your life and said to yourself “What could I have said or done differently” that might have changed the outcome of something? You know, like when you took on a new job and realized later that was a mistake or perhaps breaking off a relationship with someone that now you know shouldn’t have happened. We all have those moments of doubts and regrets, and they cover a spectrum from the ridiculous to the sublime, from love to money. Well, I can’t wealthofgeeks my way to saving you on love…you’ll have to go to Dr. Phil or Ellen or someone like them for that. But, I can advise you a little bit about the money thing. So here goes.

It's easy to look back at parts of your life and have regrets, but the important thing is to learn from them. Here's 6 lessons my regrets have taught me.

It is an exercise in futility to question yourself over and over again about your past because you cannot alter it! 30, 15, 10, or 5 years later—it doesn’t really matter when you do it. It’s like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube. It’s done, over and out, history. However, you can use the lessons learned to alter your future. That’s advice you can bank on, and sooner or later you will learn (and the sooner you learn that the better off you will be!).

The 18 Year “Hall Pass”

There’s a shred of good news when it comes to a lot of the second thoughts you may have during the first 18 or so years of your life. That’s assuming you haven’t done some really damaging stunt like robbing a bank or worse, which I won’t attempt to discuss here. The point I am making is that most of the time when you aren’t an adult, decisions you make that are questionable ultimately are no harm, no foul—at least in the long term. You sorta have a “hall pass” and also the protection of some supervisor like parents or other family and that is a huge help. But after you enter adulthood, all bets are off and the hall pass has an expiration date. Those youthful mistakes don’t ultimately matter. That’s especially true when it comes to your finances: it’s pretty simple because you probably just don’t have any. Perhaps a small amount, but that is money that you probably will blow no matter what anyone tells you.

When Does Hindsight Actually Matter?

At age 69.833 (yes damn it, I am not going to be 70 quite yet!), it is sometimes appropriate to ask yourself “What do I wish I would have learned 30 years ago?” “What would have helped me if I would have done something different back then?” It really doesn’t make any difference when you think about the “when” you look back on and ask that question because you will probably do it no matter what age you are right now—30, 40, 50, or 69.833. You still wish you could go back sometimes for a re-do and that’s the story for today’s post. Financial intelligence doesn’t just come with age. Look around and see the carnage amongst your friends and peers. How many of them are making good financial decisions that they won’t be regretting down the road? Is that you, too?

Regrets Turn Into Lessons

As many times as you may have heard someone say “I have no regrets and I would have done everything the same way if I had to do it over again”, I’m here to tell you that’s a lie or at least totally false bravado. We all have lessons we need to learn that will make us better at the important decisions that “future us” will make, and the sooner we learn them the better. How does today sound?

6 Things You Can Learn Before You Reach Age 69.833

1. Time is on your side when you’re younger

Being young gives you an opportunity to try things that you might not be able to do later in life. Whether it’s starting a business, traveling, or taking time off from work to rest or experiment, you have more energy and fewer responsibilities. While it isn’t the case for everyone, prior to getting married, having kids, and working a full-time job, most of us have more opportunities to play, learn, and experiment.

2. Time is way more valuable than money

Money comes and goes…but time just goes. We have a finite amount of time walking around the planet and we don’t know when that time will run out. I’m not trying to depress you here, but rather to say that you need to get a better appreciation for the time you do have. How do you spend it now and make the most of it?

3. You come first—and oh yeah, family and friends after that

You need to put yourself first and there are good reasons for that. It’s not to be selfish, nor to be conceited, but to provide the base so you don’t depend on others. Even more importantly, you’re in a better position to actually help your family and friends! If you don’t put yourself first, you can’t support others.

It’s important to help and assist others in need. Helping your friends and family is meant to be, but there needs to be a balance between yourself and others in your life.

4. Health, exercise, and fitness are not “chopped liver

Talk about learning lessons the hard way—guilty (raising my somewhat outstretched hand over my head!).

If you started drinking alcohol the summer before your first year of college or worse, taking loads of drugs, you ate like a stuffed piglet for years and years, neglected doctors and took high risks with your body over and over again, well you might now have a few regrets by the time you reach age 69.833—or for that matter age 29.833. In any case, taking care of your health and being fit isn’t “just a good idea” but a real necessity. You don’t have much of a future without doing it or perhaps no future at all.

You shouldn’t need a warning label to understand this point, but you do. I did. I’m not any different from you. I learned my lesson, but it took way too long for it to sink in. Take this one as a friendly reminder.

5. Take the time to make the time

We all have difficulty making time to get meaningful things done. We are usually so busy that we can’t even think about the something that “we” need, want to do or experience, because we are caught up in the 9 to 5 of everyday life which is actually the 24/7!

I wish I had started saving for my retirement sooner. I wish I had taken care of myself and worked out more. Traveling to distant places sounded like a great experience, but I never made it a priority. Does this sound like you? Whatever your passion is—experiences or things—take time to at least attempt to make it happen. If you don’t, you will be doing exactly what you don’t want to do!

6. Looking back is OK, but looking forward is more important

If you’re thinking about trying or doing something, do it. Don’t wait. Make a plan with an overall timeline and objective in mind and always, always review it, update it, and revise it when necessary. Plans should not be set in stone, but rather be realistic and flexible, and at the same time be definite. It sounds complicated, but it’s the truth and it works. I learned it the hard way so believe me, please. Life is too short. The longer you are unhappy, the less time you have to be happy.

Final Thoughts

It’s pretty noticeable that anyone or anything that results in success has done so because of a plan. A plan is the recipe to good results and like a recipe, you can always add your own tweak or twist to it to make your very own. That philosophy applies in life just like in cooking or in anything else, so remember that when you think about your goals. Plan for them today so they don’t turn into tomorrow’s regrets.

Do you have regrets about your past decisions? Have you learned any lessons from those regrets and mistakes, and have you used them to move forward in your life? How does planning for success make a difference in your life today?