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:
- From the French "to weep" + "re"; to weep over
and over again (from a loss)
- 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
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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