Your goals are hard – but living with regret is harder

The cost of doing the right thing gets too much attention. The cost of doing nothing gets too little. Eating broccoli to lose weight sounds like a sacrifice until you compare it to hating your body every single day. Writing and rewriting a rough draft sounds hard until compared to realizing you didn’t write a single page of your novel last year. Yes hard work is hard. But regret is so much harder.

I think you know this subconsciously already. You’ve had all the same negative thoughts standing on the scale that I have. You’ve felt gross at the end of a weekend knowing that you got nothing meaningful done. You’ve already paid the price of regret hundreds of times. I am not asking you to be stronger than you’ve ever been. I’m asking you to weigh the real price of your options when you feel overwhelmed.

Don’t tell yourself “I’m not strong enough to eat right today.” Say instead “I’m not strong enough to keep hating myself so much. I don’t have the energy to get up tomorrow knowing that today was a total waste.” You don’t have to spontaneously be stronger than before. Just realize that putting down that ice cream is easier than the painful feelings that come from eating it. I want you to stop doing things the hard way. You’re going through pain that has no upside. You’re pretending like doing the right thing is hard, when the regret you take on is so much worse.

How nice would it be to have a life with less regret? I didn’t say “how nice would it be to have a six pack tomorrow.” That takes more than one day. My question was: “What if you laid down to go to sleep tonight knowing you were one day closer to your goal? That you had done everything today that you could have? That even if you weren’t at the finish line of your goal you were at the finish line of today. You took one step forward instead of 2 steps back.” Wouldn’t that feel better?

We’ve chosen regret so many times. We took the hardest path just because we didn’t measure our options properly. Maybe we thought that regret of doing nothing was less expensive than trying something and doing it wrong. Maybe we didn’t think at all. But now you’ve seen how much regret costs. Now you’ve burned your hand on that stove a hundred times. Now you know how this movie ends and it’s your chance to pick the red pill or the blue pill. Now you know that instant gratification costs a high price and you can’t afford to keep paying it. Now you know how badly you want to go to bed tonight knowing you made the right decision. The choice is yours and I can’t make it for you. What is it going to be?

Further reading: If this post resonated with you then I highly recommend Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. On the surface this is a book about healthy eating but it I’ve read them all and this one is different. Most people do not eat mindfully. They start eating to escape stress or painful feelings or distract themselves, and they continue eating even when discomfort and bloated feelings tell them they’ve had too much. This book doesn’t give you rules to follow to control your body, but rather teaches you to listen to the guidance your body is already giving you. That serves a double purpose of eating the right amount of the right food and also helping you identify when you used to use food to escape painful feelings. Each time you walk to the fridge you’ll ask yourself if you truly feel hunger, or if you’re just trying really hard not to feel something else. Let’s listen to our bodies, they can tell us when we’re inviting regret into our life. Then we can choose to heal the pain we have instead of creating more.


3 comments on “Your goals are hard – but living with regret is harder”
  1. Kally says:

    Good and sound advice, Matthew. I have read the book you recommended too.

  2. Kally says:

    I always try to make sure that I will not have any regrets in life. Challenges may be hard but the satisfaction from conquering your challenge is so fulfilling to the soul.

    1. Matthew Voss says:

      Thank you Kally! You are right – conquering challenges can be incredibly rewarding.

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