"Do you regret what you have done or what you didn't do?" This is a question that recently came up over dinner with a couple of The Ladies. Honestly, The Universe amazes me sometimes with its synchronicity. A couple of weeks previous, I started working with a new coaching client who told me how they have "cheated death twice." That expression had left me thinking long and hard about living life. I mean really living life.
For those of you who have known me since my early 20s, you probably know how much thought and energy that I have put into really exploring what it means to live life fully. For those of you who I've met since then, let me share. Over roughly a three-year span, I lost two friends, two aunts, two grandparents, an uncle and my father. Some of these people were taken from me September-11th-suddenly, while others slowly succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease and various forms of cancer.
For those of you who have personally "cheated death" or experienced a type of loss similar to mine, we have a truly deepconnection with how valuable life is. I often, somewhat facetiously, remind my clients that we only have one time around on this big ball of mud. Perhaps that sounds a bit flip, but it's a big truth.
To answer The Ladies' question from our dinner last week and as Edith Piaf once warbled: Non, je ne regrette rien. (For the non-French speakers: No, I regret nothing.)
Although it was the darkest period of my life and I still miss those people dearly, I wouldn't trade the experiences. The wisdom that came out of that darkness was purely a gift. In fact, I wouldn't trade any of the other experiences in my life so far either. Sure, there are times where I find myself wishing that I had said this instead of that, not eating the last third of the pan of brownies or worn more comfortable shoes. Let's be serious. Those aren'treally game-changers, now are they?
So, what is regret; and, frankly, should we really give a damn?
According to Mr. Webster and The Merriam Brothers, regret is "sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one's control or power to repair." Perhaps, I'm oversimplifying here, but it seems to me that we make ourselves feel rotten over things that are done, unable to be changed and likely weren't totally in our control anyways. Now I'm not a PhD in psychology; and I'm sure there might be some reason for this psychological or social construct. However, I'm an ardent proponent in moving forward.
So let's ditch regret:
Accept that there are no do-overs. Remember when you were a kid playing Capture the Flag or tag with friends. If you screwed something up, you could just yell, "I call a do-over." Unfortunately, real life doesn't quite work that way. Apologize when it's necessary. More importantly, stop trying to fruitlessly do-over situations in your head. It's energy that could be better spent moving forward.
Dismiss the Itty-Bitty Sh(!#y Committee. If you are replaying a situation that you regret over in your head, no doubt that you're also being fiercely critical of how you handled the situation. Those self-defeating inner thoughts are like a bunch of cynical critics meeting in your head as what I dub the Itty-Bitty Shitty Committee. That committee is neither useful nor realistic. Shut. It. Down.
Don't be a victim. Everything is happening for you, not to you. Acknowledge the circumstances and take responsibility for your choice in actions. Learn from the situation. The worst screw-ups or situations are often the moments in which you grow the most as a person. (It may not seem like it at the time, but be patient.) Ask yourself how you can handle the situation better next time and what you learned.