Now before you get too excited, I am not quitting my blog or podcast, but I am going to quit the hanging on to memories that cause me regret.
I love the quote by Mason Cooley, “Regret For Wasted Time Is More Wasted Time,” and, frankly, my time is limited, and I don’t need any more time consuming sad memories, so for 2016 I have quit hanging on to what I thought would happen in my life, and I’m moving forward…on to what else I can make happen for the rest of my amazing life.
Recently I saw a video put out by Strayer University which showed a giant blackboard in NYC; on the top of the board were the words, Write your biggest regret. It was interesting to read what people wrote. Most wrote about lost opportunity or lost love and the like. And after they wrote on the board, they stood back and read what they’d written and looked at what others wrote and either walked away or pulled out their phone and took an unhappy selfie with the board.
After the board was filled up by the on-the-street writers and wishers of life, those who were still hanging around were given an eraser to wipe the board clean so they could, in a sense, start again new, free, and unburdened. Just the freedom of wiping away the regret seemed to give the writers a new lease on life–a new thought about their worth and value, a sliver of space to start again. If you can’t see it, all the regret written out for the world to see–not to be judged, just to be seen–maybe, just maybe, it isn’t true that your future is limited by past mistakes.
I did a simple reflection of the idea on my Facebook page, and a few folks were honest enough to say some of the things they regretted. Others were too self-conscious to be honest. You know, the ones that say, “I have no regrets. Regret is the cancer of life,” and “It’s all part of learning,” and, while they are correct, I am sure they regret something… like writing on a Facebook post that they are perfect and regret nothing. No worries–I took my post down before I wrote this newsletter, but I digress…
Most of the comments had to do with not taking advantage of opportunities and the other half had to do with losing loved ones they didn’t spend enough time with or didn’t speak enough words of love and appreciation to before they were gone.
I am sure we all can think of a few things that we wish we had done sooner or later or not at all, and because I want you to live your best life ever, I want to spend a few minutes of your day to encourage you in three ways that I believe will help with the pain of regret.
First, do what you can to make right what you can,
Second, stop fretting over what you can’t make right, and
Third, if it is possible, fill the missed opportunity with something similar you can so you can have a bit of the experience you felt you dreamed about. It is not as hard as it seems.
Something I personally found interesting is that if you’ll do a cursory review of what most people regret, it seems to be based on a belief that if they had done XYZ, their life would have been better.
Or, looking at it another way, for some, not doing XYZ is a great excuse for not living up to one’s own abilities and expectations. Harsh, I know, but think about it. How great is the excuse that…since you didn’t go to or finish high school, college, medical school, law school or the military–you name it–your life’s opportunity for fans, fame and fortune have been reduced, stunted, unrealized and you have a great excuse for why you’re living average? Now you’re loving living with the memory of regret that you didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that were given to you way back when.
Wow! That is a great story you keep telling yourself. Too bad it’s not true.
Listen, we all have things in our lives that we’re sorry about and most likely wish didn’t happen because the fallout has been hard and sad and in many cases downright lonely. But what I want to know is this,
Since those opportunities are no longer available, what are you doing to stop the cycle of regret?
If you haven’t thought about it, let me give you a few ideas.
First and the most basic is this–do what you can to make right what you can.
I know I have spoken about this before, but it bears repeating. If you have done all you know to do with an honest heart to correct, or make right or ask forgiveness for whatever happened, then you are done with the issue and the apologizing and self remorse, so put it to rest.
You need to stop beating yourself up over the other person’s refusal to forgive you. They have chosen not to forgive you for 100+ reasons that they have made up in their head, and you can’t change their mindset. Frankly, they can’t either, since they are not capable of forgiving because they are not willing to be healed. And for some odd reason, they like to carry that burden of pain around with them because it is who they have become. No matter what you do to say that you’re sorry, it will never be enough, because in their warped way they want to punish you. So do yourself a favor, and just walk away. Maybe time will heal the hurt enough so you can speak in the grocery store; if not, just walk by and keep shopping.
You will note that I have very little patience for those who are stuck on hurt, hate and unhappiness; until they are ready to heal, there is nothing you can do but be kind.
Second–stop agonizing over everything.
Realize that there are some things that, once broken, can never be put back together. Although this thought is similar to the one before, the difference is more about how you react to your opportunities.
“Regret For Wasted Time Is More Wasted Time,” and if you want to break out of your shell and live the life you’ve imagined, you have to move forward without looking back. You have to stop agonizing over every issue because you are powerless to do anything about it, because most likely it has already passed, so now you need to move on. And take to heart the words of the great philosopher Don Henley, “Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge.”
Correcting the issue of agonizing over past regrets comes down to a simple understanding of forgiveness for you. Beating yourself up does you no good, and I’m pretty sure it’s exhausting on your heart and mind, soul and body to a point to where you’re deepening the scar, and for what purpose?
Remember, sometimes you have to stop thinking so much and go where your heart takes you, and your heart will take you back to your best self to begin the healing process, because there is no body that likes to live in pain.
There is no need to ruminate over past issues of error, as long as you’ve done your part. And remember that, after you’ve done your part, the best way to heal a wound is to stop touching it.
I have found that the best way to find your path forward is to redirect your attention to something that you’ve always wanted to do, meaning that you need to take action on what you want to do, where you plan to go and who you’re taking on the trip. I love the quote, “Six letters, two words, easy to say, hard to explain, harder to do – move on.”
My third idea is this–for many of you it is possible to fill the missed opportunity of your past with something similar in your future so you can have a bit of the experience you felt you missed.
A lot of people say they wished they had traveled, or served their country in some capacity or done more to help mankind. I can think of about one thousand ways you can accomplish all of your dreams. It just takes a little work to uncover the opportunities that are waiting for you.
I love the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (one and two). If you know the story line, it is about a group of British expats who move to India to preserve their limited pension and live in style and luxury (at least that is what the brochure purports the luxurious hotel to be) until their last days, and, although it is a different lifestyle, it certainly does not disappoint in their desire to see the world.
As I travel worldwide I am amazed at the number of people from all walks of life who have chosen to work or volunteer with missions, government groups, social groups to have their adventure to see and change the world. Yes, it will take you out of your comfort zone, but why not? And if you can’t travel, you can read. Remember the line, when in pain distract the brain, and reading will take you to places you’ve only dreamed about while you’re still at home.
I work in the political sector and, goodness knows, we need good people in public office (and frankly the bar isn’t all the high), so if you have a desire to serve your community, then run for office. You’ll meet new friends and make new enemies, and what could be better than to speak up for truth and honesty and the American way.
What I’d like for you to understand is this. If you really want to go and do something… unless there is a physical reason not to do so, don’t wait. I’m not sure who said it but I love the quote, Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be. And I’ll leave you with this quote from Oscar Wilde,
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Ah, friends, don’t let that be your life. Take my advice and quit living a life of regret. Do what you can to make right what you can, and stop agonizing over every little thing. Work to fill the missed opportunity of your past with something for your future.
And in the wise words of Mark Twain, “Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.”