All of us have action regrets, but I think our deepest regrets are missed opportunities. Action regrets taste bad, but inaction regrets leave a bitter aftertaste that lasts a lifetime. Inaction regrets haunt us because they leave us asking, "What if?" We wonder how our lives would have been different had we taken the risk or seized the opportunity. What if we had chased the lion instead of running away? Somehow our lives seem incomplete. Failing to take a risk is almost like losing a piece of the jigsaw puzzle of your life. It leaves a gaping hole. When we get to the end of our lives, our greatest regrets will be the missing pieces.
That conviction is backed up by the research of two Cornell social psychologists named Tom Gilovich and Vicki Medvec. Their research found that time is a key factor in what we regret. We usually regret our actions over the short-term. But over the long haul, we tend to regret inactions. Their study found that in an average week, action regrets were slightly greater than 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.
One of my dreams growing up was to get to sing with my cousin Jamie. She is blessed with an amazing voice, one I know could have landed her on Broadway had she pursued that route.
When she made the trek from Indiana to Texas in May 1997, I decided it was now or never. So we planned to sing a duet in my home church.
On the Saturday before our performance, we went to the church and practiced the piece several times. But the next day as we stood before the congregation, my nerves took over and caused my counting to be a little off. In Jamie's words, "I thought you weren't going to come in." I ended up coming in late on my verse and was grateful when Jamie joined me for the chorus.
But when we went and sat down in the congregation, I couldn't focus on the sermon because I was so embarrassed about my performance. I kept replaying it over and over again. After the service, people thanked us for singing, but I didn't take their kind words to heart.
It's now been over twelve years since we sang, and I'm glad that I had the courage to get up in front of the church and sing with Jamie. Had I not done it then, I'm quite sure that my self-consciousness about my unskilled singing voice would keep me from doing it today.
So, in the words of Mark Batterson, "Chase the lion!" Even though it may be a bit embarrassing, it will leave you with fewer regrets than an unchased lion.
P.S. - I highly recommend Mark Batterson's book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. I could fill an entire week's worth of posts with things I underlined from it. It's worth purchasing so that you can do the same.