I'm often asked in interviews to describe my work in x number of words - joyful, vibrant, and nostalgic are the adjectives I would usually use to answer this question. The universe in which my work lives within is a bright one and so I'm surprised to find myself writing this piece about regret. For someone who has experienced little to no regret - whether that be due to good fortune or a positive spin on things - I spend a lot of my time worrying about whether or not I'll be overcome by it. In my ordinary life this can be a burden, but in my career my fear of regret has served me well.
I'm the kind of gal who will probably never go skydiving because why pay someone to maybe die? I’m also the kind of gal that, after much deliberation, drops an extra $$$ on a flight because Qantas is statistically less likely to crash than their budget counterparts. On a smaller, non-plane-related scale, never go to brunch with me because I'm the kind of person that takes forever looking at the menu so that I can avoid that next hour or four regretting my decision (enjoying food is a priority for me).
It doesn't stop there. The list of meaningless, ordinary decisions that I feel like everyone else can make with ease and with a low-level of stress, are somehow - in that moment - the most meaningful and most stressful decisions of my entire life. Once I've made that initial decision, things are fine - utterly peachy! I know, I sound insane. I can think rationally and I do try to ground myself with "Hey, no big deal DUDE", "Chill out MAN" and "No one else cares GUY" but for some reason in that moment, it seems like it IS a big deal, I CAN'T chill out and everyone else DOES care.
My fear of regret, which is sometimes a burden in my every-day life, somehow becomes something I've harnessed and used to propel myself forward through my professional life. That high level of discomfort I feel at the thought of speaking in front of crowds of strangers is squashed by the utter terror of not taking that conference gig, possibly regretting it. The casual bouts of anxiety I get before big meetings, or while accepting jobs, is nothing in comparison to the fear of FOMO. Yes, you read that right, the fear of the fear of missing out.
Another example of my fear of regret surprisingly being a positive force in my work, came during my first real design job. I had an incredible boss/creative director/mentor who instilled in me the value of quality in the finer details - not just through valuable constructive criticism, but through example. This attention to detail in combination with my fear of regretting not spending that extra hour on whatever I was working on, really drove the quality of my work up and also made me a more perseverant creative, in practice and in business.
Just to be clear, I’m not endorsing this mode of thinking to you, or to anybody for that matter, as I’m sure it’s a self-manufactured defence mechanism against feeling terrified and overwhelmed 100% of the time. Although I don’t actually feel like I’ve experienced regret yet, I do feel like I have small brushes with the feeling on a daily basis and am not always worse off for it. It seems to be working in my favour on the levels that are most important to me, so let’s just roll with it.