Minimize Regrets: The Virus In You.

I wrote this in May of 2011. I never published it. At the time I had just dropped out of the PhD track at Stanford and was still not sure what I’d do next. I came across it again today and thought that it deserves to be read.

Enter Maria @2011…

Everyone has a virus. We were all born with at least one, and we may have acquired more during our lives. The virus’ job is to make us grow doing what we love. So it shouts us what to do. It will yell to us until we listen. If we get tired of its yelling, then sorry, we cannot make it shut up.  Our only option is to do what it says or live with its rumbling for the rest of our lives!

A virus leads you to your potential.

For one person it may be to live abroad, for another to become a doctor, or have 8 children. Other people may want to solve problems, while others want to be artistically creative.

Whatever your virus is, you cannot get rid of it.

Your virus does not care about the state of the economy or what your family thinks. It won’t shut up because you are comfortable in your current situation, so there is no real “need” to follow it. It could care less about your logic. It will shout in your ears until you do something about it. And if you don’t…it will eat you up!! After all, it’s a virus!!!

Of course, you are obeying it already. If your virus dictates you love cooking, then you are probably cooking. If your virus dictates you should be a chef, then you may or may not be one. If you’re not, but trying to “get by” by simply cooking for yourself, then you may still have trouble with the virus.

The virus eats you up when you don’t do what it says, but grants you with fulfillment if you follow its orders. It’s your decision whether you’ll follow along or dare to resist.

So I have a love-hate relationship with my virus(-es). However, I believe we can be friends.

A friend of mine always wanted to live abroad. She didn’t do it and even though it’s been years, she still nags about it (but is still not doing it.) I no longer try to to advise her on that – it’s obvious she’s made her decision. She has convinced herself she cannot leave and tries to compensate by taking trips once in a while.

But the “live abroad” virus doesn’t let her completely give up on that dream, so that’s why she’s still nagging about it. Do it – or live a life complaining about it! The virus hardly gives us options.

The problem with “viruses” is that they hardly go away and there’s no vaccine against them. If you have one, you’re doomed. You either take steps to fulfill it or live a life with regret.

It’s interesting that I used the word “virus” to describe what many of us would call “our heart” or “our heart’s desire.”

So am I friends with my virus? We’re definitely on better terms than in 2011. Sometimes I even welcome my quirkiness. I focus less on how I’d like to be and more on how I really am. I accept more who I am and what I want. I no longer want to change me the way I used to. And by changing me, I’m not referring to my appearance or my personality. I’m referring to my desires.

Back then I really wanted to my desires. I hated that virus. If it was completely up to me and there was no virus, I’d never started Fitness Reloaded and I’d have a PhD in Engineering by now, possibly working on big public transportation projects. Ok I don’t know what type of work I’d be doing, but I’d definitely still be in the field and would have never left Stanford.

And I wouldn’t have a virus to become an author or study healthy habits or anything like that. I wouldn’t be curious about a million things like I am right now.

Making the transition away from Stanford was very upsetting and unsettling. It brought on an identity crisis. Following the virus was hard, really hard.

But then I got to score some points. When I first thought I wanted to write book I thought I was crazy and that it would never happen. Well, now I’ve written two. I now consider it “normal” to write books.

Me posing with “Surprisingly…Unstuck: The Power of Small Healthy Habits, In a World Addicted to Instant Results”

Then I’ve helped people who dread exercise actually like it. I think that’s amazing. Granted that exercise has all sorts of benefits including living longer, I feel privileged to have played a key role in this.

I get emails like that –

Or this was just posted –

So there are good things ahead by following the virus. But the most important thing is that by making a hard decision years ago, I’m minimizing future regrets.

Here, take it from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos on the “Regret Minimization Framework.”

It’s simple: Imagine yourself at an old age, say 90. What are your regrets? These are the things you know you need to do. This is the virus speaking.

The virus doesn’t give you guarantees of success – it’s just that he/she just doesn’t give you the option to be truly happy unless you move forward towards the direction he/she points to. He/she is a dictator. You don’t have to make an 180 degree turn, but you do have to take steps (big or small) – or suffer forever.

So what’s your virus? Are you resisting or playing along?

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