Wonder too often about how life would've turned out if you had travelled another path? Learn to accept your decision and you'll find happiness.
My friend who is a postgraduate in psychology decided to be a stay-at-home mother after her two children were born. I often wondered if she would regret her decision when she watched her other friends scaling up the career ladder. But Anita is a person who had made her choices after much thought. She had ranked her priorities, thought over what mattered to her most at this stage in her life and was determined to make the best of it.
There was only an occasional wistful look that I would detect when talking about her earlier career. For most of the time, she would be managing her children's activities, looking after the needs of family and friends, be available to anyone who needed a shoulder, volunteer at philanthropic activities and was a great proponent of mind and body health. In life we have to make choices about several things- from smaller decisions like the school your child should attend to much larger issues like your choice of career or partner or migrating to a different country.
We often feel that the choices we make tend to determine the direction our life takes, and that our entire identity is tied in with that decision. If things go right, we applaud our choices but more often than not, when life is not going the way we want it to, we slip into the Regret Spiral. How many of us have not thought about how things would have turned out if we had agreed to date the other man who asked us out and not our current partner; or if we had chosen to study a different course, or chosen to stay on in a country we migrated to instead of returning to the homeland and its troubles!
I know people who blame everything about their current situation on a choice they made in the past. Every-thing that goes wrong in their lives is attributed to that one decision. Their Regret Spiral keeps taking them further and further away from being content and more accepting of life. How do we learn to accept our choices and live with them? Reflect on your decisions Try and reflect on why you made the choice in the first place and you will often find the answers. Our decisions at any point are based on our values at that particular stage. Maybe it was important for you to put family first when you were 30, even though you had the option of a great job overseas. Reflect back to that time and dwell on what your family gained by your staying back with them. Going back in time and reliving the moment will often bring to attention what you valued and the gains that decision brought.
Take control Whatever choices we make, we always have some control over our lives. If you have bought a house in a noisy neighbourhood and are dismayed at the choice you made, focus on what you can do within your house to muffle the noise; find out like-minded neighbours who can help. This will make you feel less powerless in the face of what you think was the wrong choice. Stay out of the 'Regret Spiral' Catch yourself when you find that you are going into the Regret Spiral. 'If Only' and 'Perhaps' are words that should not appear too often in your conversations about your past. Control repetitive thoughts such as-'If only, I had bought this house 10 years ago, I would have made more money; perhaps my life would have been better if I had taken up the other job, if only I had moved to Australia my life would have been better. Interact with people who you think have made your desired choices-you will realise that they too have questions and worries about the path they have chosen. Surround yourself with like-minded people who have made similar choices. If you have decided to join an NGO rather than work in a corporate office, interact with others who have done the same and are thriving. This will give you validation.