If only…

While watching a Danish television series, one particular scene left me very disturbed – it showed a woman practicing self-flagellation because she believed she had failed her husband and was unable to prevent the crisis unfolding in front of her eyes.

Self-flagellation is the practice of excessive criticism of oneself and in extreme cases may be followed by flogging oneself.

As humans, we spend a lot of time regretting our decisions and wishing ‘If only’ one had done it differently. ‘If only’ one had foreseen what was to happen. ‘If only’ better decisions had been taken.

Making decisions by itself can be a big exercise and tire you out completely. Did you know that an average adult makes about 35,000 decisions in a day, of which almost 226.7 decisions are on food alone?! That is almost 1458 decisions per hour, nearly 24 in a minute! This requires a lot of thinking and of course not every decision made is done on the basis of rationality, deep thinking and after weighing the pros and cons. Which is where, the regrets come in, ‘If only,’…

Regrets play in our mind on hindsight and can leave one with a low level of self-esteem and a drop in self-confidence.

Feeling regret can become a positive emotion if one focuses on the energy it can create by utilizing the thoughts that come into play and turning them around. As the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard put it, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

Be in the moment

What if you were to turn around the ‘If only’ moment to the’ now’ and focus in the moment? When your press release needs to be reworked completely, when your crisis management strategy fail or when the CEO interview goes awfully off tangent, don’t let the ‘If only’ emotion bog you down. Use it at that very moment to find solutions and navigate your way out of it.

Since many decisions need to be taken in a split second, we need to be mindful of our thinking process and capture the regretful thoughts that fleet through our mind. Hold them for a moment and then turn them around so that you can wear the ‘thinking solutions’ cap.

Focus on what really matters

We often lose our way because we focus on things that hold little value down the line. When collaborating with teams, we tend to focus on the individuals and not on their competency or the value that they bring to the table. A lot of regret can be washed away if we change our thinking towards making things work right there and then and concentrate on what is within our control.

Take that risk

Most of the time we regret things we did not do. That we let go of an opportunity that came our way. That new job which called for a relocation. Or that different project that meant getting out of our comfort zone. Or experimenting with a new medium to tell our organization’s narrative. Instead of becoming indecisive when it comes to entering a new domain/area, think of the positive outcomes that may come your way if you do take that risk.

Surround yourself with supporters

Ever noticed how people prefer walking in twos or groups for their daily dose of exercise? How it is a group that goes on a trek? We love to share activities with others. This also ensures we stick to our commitment and our goal. We have each other’s back so as to speak. During your ‘if only’ moments, surround yourself with your supporters who can give you that vital dose of optimism to change tracks and take the risk to plunge into the unknown.

The biggest regret that one lives with is ‘what if only I had tried and so what if I had failed….’ Well, why have a list of regrets when you can very well turn them around by taking risks and changing your decision process.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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