Have you ever really wanted to do something that required some risk and while you were still trying to make up your mind to be bold enough to do it, the opportunity went right on by, and you knew you could not get it back? I have – on more than one occasion. I believe that closer to the end of our lives, we’ll experience more regret because of missed opportunities than mistakes that we made.
Actions or inactions – Which brings more regret?
Two Cornell University sociologists conducted a study and showed that time is a key element in determining what we regret. In the short term, we lean toward regretting our actions, but over the long haul, these sociologists found that inactions were more likely to produce regret.
I’ve done some really stupid things and said some really dumb things that I wish I could turn back a cosmic clock and undo. I regret those things and those words. But now that I’m approaching my 6th decade on planet earth, I find that I have more regret about the things I didn’t do, the risks I didn’t overcome, the opportunities I didn’t take advantage of, or the dreams I let die.
The Story of a Lion Chaser
There is a short and obscure Scripture in the Old Testament, found in II Samuel 23:20 – Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. I think it deserves a look. The story is about Benaiah chasing a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it. Now, we’re not told what in the world Benny was doing or even where he might have been headed when he came across this lion. We’re not told what he was thinking. All we know from this writing of antiquity is that on a gut response, he took a huge risk and despite all odds, he chased the lion and…killed it.
This is a very unlikely thing to take place. Usually, when a man-eating animal is encountered, a normal person would take one and only one action: RUN!! But not this guy. After all, wouldn’t this look good on his resume: In 600 BC I chased a lion on a snowy day and killed it.” Well, it must have worked, because Benaiah landed a job as a bodyguard for King David of Israel. In fact, he worked his way up the military chain of command to become the second most powerful guy in all of Israel. I like to think that his stellar career can be traced back to a snowy day when he had to make a choice to run away or chase a lion. If he had run away, he would have always wondered, “What if…?”
So let me tie all this together for you. The scariest and most difficult situations can become the greatest of experiences, and can actually become defining moments in your life. David Whyte, English poet, author, and speaker, says this, “The price of our vitality is the sum of our fears.”
Bedtime Stories Worth Telling
I want my children and grandchildren to tell stories about me that are worth telling. Can’t you just imagine the bedtime stories in Benaiah’s household?
Stop running and start chasing. Make the most of every opportunity. Rather than just avoiding risks, decide to maximize all the potential and opportunity God has given each of us.
Jeanne Kolenda is a telecommunications consultant and a small business marketing coach.