Living a Life Without Regrets

Someone asked me a question on Tumblr that really got me thinking… She asked if I had any regrets in my life. Sometimes I think that I move so fast through life that I don’t have time to really sit back and dwell on the coulda/shoulda/wouldas. (I mean really, it feels like the weather was just turning into Summer and now we’re midway through October!)
While I never really think about regretting situations, that question did get me started though… Do I have regrets?

I guess there are things I wish I had done better. Relaxed more in high school. Met more people in college. (Attended more parties…. truth.) Backed out of certain things earlier. Trusted my intuition more.

But at the end of the day… I don’t really regret anything. Remember that Path to Passion? Part of that path is knowing you have a path in front of you and a path behind you. One of the things that keeps me from regretting too much is that every tiny detail, I believe, has gotten me to this exact place in my life. Of course, it’s easier to not regret the amazing stuff: the professors who inspired me, the trips that opened me up to new worlds, the great friends who have shared tiny parts of their souls with me.

But the bad experiences? The negative people? The classes I failed? The relationships that went nowhere? The trips I didn’t take? The opportunities I let pass me by?

They all happened for a reason… so I could get to this place at this point in my life.

beautiful scottish house photograph by alex barlow

The negative people have made me appreciate the good ones. The classes I failed, well… I failed one and it led me to start this blog… so I’d say that turned out just fine. The relationships that went nowhere have absolutely made me understand what it feels like to be in a good, real, wonderful one. The trips I didn’t take could have turned into a script for Taken: The Sequel (right?!). The opportunities I let pass me by made sure I was available for the just-right-for-me ones.

Even the one regret that might possibly actually be a regret can be explained too. Sometimes I regret not studying abroad during college. BUT, I didn’t study abroad because I was on the rowing team. And I would never in a million years take away that incredible experience. Not to mention that I had the opportunity to row in the Henley Royal Regatta in London and that was way better than any study abroad trip.

So regrets? I’m going to go with e) none of the above.

Do you think you have regrets?


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Jackie {York Avenue}

Great post. The fact is, it's all in your perspective. You can choose to have regrets, or you can choose to see that the things you could regret actually led you to something better, led you to where you are now, or taught you something. It's all in how you choose to see it. I really try to choose and see possible regrets as having led me to where I am, and made me who I am.

Majda Mehanovic

It's funny that you posted about this question. I've found myself asking myself this so often lately. But once I look at who I am now, I can't imagine it being real unless I went through every stupid comment or weird phase. Every day of my life has contributed to my maturing and coming-of-age. I can't say I'm there yet; I have so much more to learn, but nevertheless, I've been taking steps forward based on my past experiences.

Majda |

Monica Mont

Yes.. I think that everything you regret not doing or that it did not work out were for a reason. I feel that we are being pushed in so many ways that you dont really have time to think about regrets. You have to look at were you are at NOW and see that maybe everything behind you pushed you here.

Just keep looking forward because looking back is not worth the time!



I really appreciate your perspective on this topic. You seem so content with your life without regrets. But I am going to disagree with you. Perhaps you and I have different interpretations of what regret does, and we are thinking of different levels of regret. You seem to focus on big decisions, but more often than not my regret comes from small things. Things I've said or people I've been less than kind to are my regrets, not where I went to school or a trip I didn't take. Believe me, there are plenty of those. I don't bother regretting those, because I find I'm happy with my life now.

But for the small, I find regret a motivating tool. When I say something I shouldn't, or behave a way that doesn't sit well with me, instead of being debilitating, that regret proves to myself that I can be better than I am today. I am constantly striving to shape and refine myself into the kind of person I want to be. It's not that I enjoy them; they can be truly painful. But I don't see the harm in making a choice, evaluating it, and deciding that I made the wrong one as long as I don't let that regret become my defining characteristic.

So yes, I have regrets and I'm proud of them. I don't actively seek for regret, but I'm not resentful when it comes because it serves a valuable purpose, as opposed to being destructive.

Note: There is a TED talk about this by Kathryn Schulz entitled "Don't Regret Regret." Highly recommend–completely changed my perspective.

Sarah Morris

I can relate completely that my "regrets" are more things along the lines of that I should have relaxed a little more and enjoyed myself a little more in high school & college. I was always so focused on making sure everything was set up properly and that I didnt' get myself into any unnecessary drama. But I am happy that I did so because now I can savor it all in these very moments 🙂


For some reason I have been thinking about this concept a lot lately and realizing just how much almost every negative situation how somehow made room for an ever better one. Kind of like what you were talking about with the "path to passion" post and the little adjustments that keep you on course. I've always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and everything we go through in life, whether it be a struggle or accomplishment, is there as a lesson.

Kimberly Topolewski

My life motto is 'Everything Happens for a Reason' and I 100% truely believe that. The car accident I got in a few weeks ago(which was my first one, and my first one on my complete own)? I was miserable. Cried myself to sleep for days with stress, anxiety and general worry. But I just kept reminding myself that it was to make me better, stronger and smarter as an adult. It sucks and I wish it didn't happen, but I don't regret it.

Just like you said, it all leads you to where you're suppose to be.

carelessly graceful


I'm glad that you liked my question 😉

It's refreshing to know that you are pretty carefree when it comes to regrets/mistakes/etc. I'm the complete opposite, which has caused a lot of trouble. I just need to learn how to accept!


Jessica Joyce

It's just like the book, that I totally recommend, says in its title, "The Purpose Driven Life." I honestly believe that it's all about having that passion (which you always write of) and following it, because without it, life isn't worth living.

Your Friend, Jess

Argyle Girl

Such a great way to look at the past! I definitely agree with the idea that everything we have done has lead us to where we are today. Sometimes its hard to not regret something right after it happens (a missed opportunity, your friends leaving on a trip with out you, etc.), but after some time has passed, it really puts things into perspective. I am thankful for everything I once regretted.

Argyle Girl |


I'm loving these introspective posts in the last few months Carly! I have to admit, I've followed your blog for a while and when we were both still in college I read the post you once did about the three jars of sand (how you felt panicked if your social jar got too full!) and remembered feeling unproductive in comparison / wondering whether you'd change your feelings about that later. I'm glad to know that you changed your mind a little in retrospect. =) I really admire how open and real you are about yourself here, and have to say that through the years you've become one of my favorite bloggers and an inspiration.

As far as regrets go, I have always been the kind of person who would rather act on my emotions and take whatever consequences (lessons!) followed. I have had my fair share of "OMG why did I do that?!" moments, but in the end, as you so aptly quote, those actions have all taught me so much. After losing my dad during my senior year of college, I learned to appreciate the true value of not having regrets – I can honestly say that we made the most of our 21 years together and we both fully expressed how much we loved each other. There are so many parts of life that we have no control over, and so it becomes especially important to live in a way that allows us to be at peace with the aspects we CAN impact. You seem to have an especially intuitive sense of this. Thanks for sharing!