At one point or another, every one of us has wrestled with regret. We wish we had approached a situation differently, or taken an opportunity when it presented itself. As writer Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been.’” It’s human nature to grieve our disappointments. But it can be risky, even damaging, to let the past overshadow the present.
Regret doesn’t have to be a wound we carry around. In fact, our regret can act as a compass to our happiness: It helps teach us what we actually want from ourselves and our lives. Instead of dwelling on our mistakes, we can use them to move forward. The following quotes from authors, athletes, and artists remind us that regret is a natural part of the human experience, and can even be a tool, if we handle it with care.
Your regrets aren’t what you did, but what you didn’t do. So take every opportunity.
— Cameron Diaz
One day, perhaps, you will see for yourself that regrets are as nothing. The value lies in how they are answered.
― Steven Erikson, author
I don’t believe in regret, I feel everything leads us to where we are and we have to just jump forward, mean well, commit and just see what happens.
— Angelina Jolie
Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it.
― Katherine Mansfield, author
I’d rather regret the risks that didn’t work out than the chances I didn’t take at all.
— Simone Biles
To regret deeply is to live afresh.
— Henry David Thoreau
Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.
― John Wooden, basketball coach
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. / No other path, no other way, / No day but today.
― Jonathan Larson, composer
I always believed that when you follow your heart or your gut, when you really follow the things that feel great to you, you can never lose, because settling is the worst feeling in the world.
Regrets only apply when we don’t learn from a situation. No sense looking back: look forward with new knowledge and no regret.
— Catherine Pulsifer, author
Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.
― Arthur Miller
When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.
– Alexander Graham Bell
There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.
― Sabaa Tahir, novelist
We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.
— Lucy Maud Montgomery, novelist
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