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Regrets, I have a few...
By Robert Knowlton

"Gee, I feel so bad. I really should have done this, and when I think back, I really wish I'd never said that to her, and if only I had jumped at that opportunity, maybe I wouldn't be in this situation ..."

Regrets. I don't know many people who are not carrying around a few. Just thinking about them feels like it adds weight to my shoulders. Regrets can be a big stumbling block to living on purpose. Let's take a look at the nature of "regret." How does it affect you? How can you learn from these experiences, and then take your insights into living on purpose everyday?

The root of the word "regret" has two possible sources:

  1. From the French "to weep" + "re"; to weep over and over again (from a loss)
  2. From the German "gret" to greet + "re"; re-greet, to re-member or to think of again and again (usually something lost or a loss).

Both meanings point to the experience of reliving or revisiting a loss, a death; greeting grief or sorrow again and again.

As you move through your life, you will experience loss. How you handle loss is critical to your ability to live your life and, well ... be happy. How you integrate loss into your life deeply affects your ability to be resourceful. Being resourceful helps you make choices that are healthy and support a fulfilling life.

Regrets generally come from unfulfilled expectations. We live in a time of high expectations. As a society, we seem to want it all. Many believe they are entitled to have it all, and if you believe what you see on TV and in magazines, your life is not really worthy unless you own the best and latest style, or are making a million dollars working at a hot new Internet start-up.

The truth is, sometimes you will not get what you want and will experience loss. When you don't achieve at the level you hoped, or when expectations of what you imagined the future to be are not met (a relationship didn't work out, the loss of a dream or a job), there can be regrets about your decisions or actions.

Regrets are often accompanied by a stiff dose of self- judgment. "I should have done X" or "I'm a terrible person for doing Y" or "Obviously I'm not worthy, capable or deserving." Does this sound familiar?

No one seems to regret his or her wins, victories and accomplishments! What's the difference? I believe this is important to notice. Understanding how you carry your "losses" relative to how you carry your "victories" may help you shift regrets that may be unconsciously weighing you down.

A wise person once told me, "Suffering is a result of unexamined stories." The regrets you carry are experiences or stories that you may not have examined for the insights they hold for you. As you re-greet your experiences, examining them in the same way you always have, probably you will get the same experience of the same feelings and come up with the same regrets. You may notice the same self-judgment, the same self- talk or self-recrimination.

Shifting your perspective on your own or with assistance (a coach can help here), re-greeting your experiences with a new view, can help you learn from your past and release the binding feelings of regret.

Take a moment to identify a situation you regret. When you think about this experience and the feelings attached to it, does it support you to live a full, purposeful and happy life? Or does it weigh you down and make it harder for you to be resourceful and move forward?

If you are anything like me or those I've polled, regrets can seem like a ball and chain, like extra baggage or simply an unrecognized weight or burden.

If you use these re-greeted experiences as learning opportunities, you may notice they can support you to live with more purpose. When you sift through regrets, you can usually find a nugget of truth that will help you make healthy choices the next time you find yourself in a similar situation. You are adding resources.

Feelings of sadness, sorrow, disappointment and loss are real, honest and true emotions. It is in the remembering, the re-greeting of these feelings without taking insight from them that can spawn regret.

To live your life from this day forward with passion and authentic purposefulness, you must release your judgment of yourself. As you travel through your life, it is much easier to lighten your load and carry lessons learned than it is to drag along the weight of regrets.

Releasing regret will liberate you to live in today more authentically and true to your purpose.

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


2000, Robert Knowlton

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