Action or Inaction? Which will you regret more?

Tue, Jun 29, 2010

Influence, Perspective

Action or Inaction? Which will you regret more?

Regret can have a profound impact on how we live our lives. It can be the difference between living the life you were meant to live, simply getting by or worse… missing the mark.

The regret I’m speaking of comes in two forms: The Regret of Action and The Regret of Inaction. According to Dr. Neil Roese, a regret of action is doing something you wish you hadn’t done. A regret of inaction is not doing something that you wish you had done.

I can certainly relate.

There are days where I wish I could go back and have a “do-over” to take back something I said or something I did. Most of the time I see these instantly, like when I say something foolish and immediately regret the words that just came out of my mouth.

Then there are times when I wish I could go back and DO something that I didn’t… Where I wish I would have pursued an opportunity that I might have let slip by. The problem with opportunity though is that you often don’t see the real opportunity in the moment you have a choice to pursue it. You don’t know the outcome, you just see the risk and frankly that risk can be the barrier that stops the pursuit. Many times we don’t realize this type of regret until we look back and reflect on the choices missed or hear the echo of that subtle whisper that says “what if you would have ____.”

It’s this second form of regret that makes the biggest difference between living your life to its fullest or sitting around wishing for what might have been. It’s the difference between pursuing big dreams or settling for the status quo. It’s sitting in your easy chair wanting the success or impact you see someone else having but not being willing to do the work or take the risks required to achieve it. It’s living in fear, not in faith.

Researchers Tom Gilovich and Vicki Medvec found that time is a key factor in what we regret. Over the short term, we tend to regret our actions. But over the long haul, we tend to regret our inactions. Their study found that over the course of an average week, action regrets outnumber inaction regrets 53 percent to 47 percent. But when people look at their lives as a whole, inaction regrets outnumber action regrets 84 percent to 16 percent.

That’s a huge gap. A gap I don’t want my life to fall into. I’d imagine you feel the same.

In his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, inspired by one of the most obscure yet courageous acts recorded in Scripture, Mark Batterson recounts the story of an audacious act that left no regrets: “Benaiah chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it” (2 Samuel 23:20 -21)

Mark goes on to say…

What if the life you really want, and the future God wants for you, is hiding right now in your biggest problem, your worst failure…your greatest fear?

Your greatest regret at the end of your life will be the lions you didn’t chase. You will look back longingly on risks not taken, opportunities not seized, and dreams not pursued. Stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path. Unleash the lion chaser within!

What About You?

Do you have regrets of Action or Inaction? Are you willing to “Chase the Lion” and take action to pursue the life you were meant to live?


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    About Daniel Decker:

    Daniel Decker is President of Higher Level Group, Inc., a strategic marketing and development firm that helps authors, professional speakers, and organizations who are doing good to expand their influence. LINKS: Follow @DanielDecker on Twitter | Visit the "About" Page | Subscribe to the Blog and get updates via RSS or Email.

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