I remember listening to the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra as a young boy. The opening lyrics to the second stanza start out “Regrets, I’ve had a few but then again, too few to mention”. Maybe this is one of the great hindrances in our lives we seldom seem to address. How do we handle our regrets? Let’s start as we do many times by defining what regret is: “A feeling of sadness, repentance or disappointment, over something that has happened or been done.” Maybe we could define it as a memory of something we wish could be redone. The truth is we all have regrets and some are easier to live with than others. I want to take a look at a partial list of things people regret according to a poll in Forbes magazine. If you would like to read the full article here is the link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/10/18/the-25-biggest-regrets-in-life-what-are-yours/#112823426488. I will not be addressing all 25 items but just a few select ones to hopefully inspire us to Listen. Think. Act.
- Working too much at the expense of family and friendships.
Working is a part of life, you might say a very big part of life. We might view work in a different light than others depending on our family history and the early years of life. Some people will tie a great deal of their self-worth to their work, others might see it as a necessary evil. Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, most of us probably agree it is a necessity. I have observed everything from workaholics to the hippies throughout my life. It is amazing how polar opposites work right beside one another every day. Do you identify with either of these two or somewhere in between? This question could provoke another question, “What do you value most?” People can experience regret when work takes an inordinate amount of their time. This time thief replaces picnics, walks on the beach and occasionally vacations. Sometimes this is necessary, other times it is self-induced. So why do we feel the gnawing pain of regret? I referenced the “Hippies” in the earlier part of this paragraph. Most of us have a stereotypical view of this carefree individual. Yet, there is a part of their lifestyle we might envy if we are honest with ourselves. The hippie seems to be easily pleased, therefore needs less in life to survive. I talk to my children often about balance in life. It is tempting when we find something new such as a job, hobby or relationship to pour the lion’s share of our time into our “new found love”. Often, in the future, we feel regret for letting things go, ignoring relationships or just becoming too self-absorbed in this particular case with our work. There are many things that vie for our attention on a daily basis. Our jobs are a necessary part of life, just guard against letting it consume all of your time. We ignore family and friends to our own detriment. Do you feel the regret of working too much?
- Standing up to bullies in school and in life.
This is a shift from the first topic but one that affects many people. A great deal of attention in recent years has focused on the subject of bullying. Most of the bullying conversations have been centered around “Cyber Bullying”. Social media has provided many benefits and simultaneously ushered in a new era for potential bad behavior. If you had to describe a bully, what would your definition include? Is someone that likes to debate a bully? Is someone that possesses confidence in themselves a bully? Have we distorted the characterization so ridiculously that bullying could actually be anyone that disagrees with you openly? I looked up the government website on bullying and pulled some information for this blog from the following site https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/index.html. The government describes bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involve a real or perceived power imbalance. Of course, this can happen to anyone at any age but is primarily experienced with children. Have any of you experienced being bullied in your childhood? For some people, this memory not only invokes feelings of regret but also anger. ” I should have stood up for myself” is a regret you might feel, and even verbalize to other people. The first point I would like to make about regret is how powerless we are to change the past. We all know hindsight is 20/20, and regret can bring feelings of frustration and discontent. The first thing we can do with regret is to embrace the life lessons they teach us. You may have been bullied, which is a terrible thing for anyone to experience. Do not allow this to control your life, or it can perpetually lock you into a moment of time. Your past helplessness can infiltrate the life you live today and continue on into the future. You cannot help the feeling of regret for some things in life but you must decide the power you will give it.
- Worrying about what others think.
This is a topic that is more about “reputation”. An honest assessment of yourself would be incomplete without at least taking a cursory look at your reputation. Some people appear to be exempt from this form of regret. For the rest of us, we might have committed a faux pas that has changed the way people perceive us. I am very leery of anyone that says they do not care what others think of them. We might not be overly concerned, it might not dominate our decision making, but to say it has no impact is suspicious at best. As humans, it is a natural desire to get along well with other people. When that appears to be impossible, it is quite normal to turn our analysis inward and question our actions, speech, and motives. Relationships will change for a variety of reasons. The cause of these fissures can be a misinterpreted action, a word spoken out of turn or possibly loss of contact with a person. During moments of nostalgia, we might experience regret for the loss of a close relationship. It is an interesting fact that experts tell us it is impossible to maintain more than 150 friendships. I am not saying we cannot know more than 150 people but we cannot maintain a relationship with them. For those of you on Facebook, take a look at your friend’s list. More than likely some of the people on the list should go into a category named “acquaintances”. Friends vs. Acquaintances is an interesting subject that could support its own blog post. My point I am steering towards is “People will have an opinion and you have only a small part in determining it”. Regret should be saved for the things you have direct control over, not someone’s opinion. I hope my statement is not misconstrued. We should always strive to be the best person we can in our relationships with others. Yet, it is paramount to do the right thing regardless of others opinions. If we are true to ourselves and our core values we will have less regret in our lives. If your compass is off, then correct it back to true north. If people’s opinions are not in line with your core values, maybe you need different friends. Value other’s opinions, but in the end, you are the one that will live with your decisions, not them.
- Having more confidence in myself.
This could be written in a series of blog posts, I will try to give you an overhead view of the subject. The quiet confidence of a person does not stem from ability alone, it exudes from the inner peace of self-acceptance. This is not a new age, let’s all love everyone at all times writing. Still, we have to look at something from a different viewpoint or we will continue to see the same thing each time. As we look back over our lives we can recall times when confidence in ourselves was low. This can be for a variety of reasons. A question to ask at this point might be “What is the source of my confidence”? We are born with natural abilities (Abilities that require very little work for success), by the same token we are born with weaknesses (Abilities that may never develop fully). The things we love to do (which primarily coincides with our strengths) are great tools for improving our confidence. Society places pressures on people to have a perfect body, a lucrative financial portfolio and have an insanely organized life. Goals are a necessary part of life. There is an old adage that states: “If you shoot at nothing, you will hit it every single time.” Goals must be realistic and achievable, they also should support the life we desire. Do not try to live someone else’s life. Although some of us have similar talents, we are all different instruments in the orchestra of life. When you set goals then ask yourself “What do I want to accomplish in my life?” Does your answer align with your talents? Are you afraid of failing? Many things affect our confidence and if left unanswered will produce regrets. Operate in your strengths, do not look to others for your confidence, they do not possess what you are looking for nor what you need. These answers will be found when you come to terms with your own identity. Finally, do not fear your difference with others. We are all uniquely made and this should provide added confidence to truly be ourselves.
- Spending time with the people you love. I have to confess this topic was going to be about spending time with your children. After some quick thought, I have decided that this regret is real for anyone that loves deeply. Life is busy and many times our obligations can be overwhelming. “How are you spending your allotted time with people you love?” I am not talking about time management. I am asking “Are you present with the person you love when you are with them”? Mindfulness addresses this very subject. I will not attempt to address the plethora of things that constantly vie for our attention. Do you listen more than you talk? When you listen are you thinking of the next thing you want to say? Try letting the conversation progress where it needs to go. If you will do this, your relationships will be more satisfying and will produce far less regret. You will long for the other’s company. It will cease to be another item on your to-do list. Eliminate the guilt and spend quality time with people. Put away your cell phone. Turn off the television. It is permissible to have quiet distraction-free conversations. You can collect many things in life, money, land, coins and the list is endless, but you cannot collect time. Each minute is spent equally with or without your permission. Take a moment after you read this blog and talk with someone you love. Give them your full attention and show interest in what they are saying. We have limited time with each other, cherish the time you have together. “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”
― Charles Darwin, The Life & Letters of Charles Darwin
In conclusion, we have many opportunities for regret. Will giving regret a foothold in our life changes anything that has been done? We know we cannot change the past, yet we hold on to the guilt and regret. I have often told my friends “There is no perfect life, there is just life.” The beauty of life and the heartaches all come in one package. Mistakes are learning tools, they should be treated as such. If you have regret and most of us do, what lessons have you learned from them? If we continue down the same road we should anticipate arriving at the same place. Today, let go of the regrets and live the life you have always wanted. Don’t look at others with envy, celebrate your uniqueness and use your talents to help your fellow man. I will leave you with a final quote that I believe summarizes this blog very well: “Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.”
― Katherine Mansfield