A Facebook friend posted the question, “What is your ONE regret? If you had a chance to do one thing over again, what would you do differently?” Immediately, people shared stories of choices they made which led to undesirable outcomes.
I shared a different perspective:
“Regret is a state of mind. Everything we’ve ever done and been has led us to where we are. Regrets usually center around pain; pain is our greatest teacher.
Pain is where we are forced to change. When we live in regret, it is impossible to live in gratitude. When we live in regret, we are directing our energies into an event, time, place, or experience we can not change.
Accepting the past with grace is essential to opening the future and our potential with open arms. Any regret at all – even thinking about it for this post – is a waste of our precious energy.
Perhaps a better question is, “what is the best lesson or greatest change you have experienced as a result of a decision you made that didn’t serve your highest purpose?”
Shortly after this exchange, I discovered Rob Bell’s podcast entitled, “What to Do with The Waste.” I’m a devoted listener to Rob Bell, devouring 4-5 of his podcasts a week. So as I was skimming through his episodes, the title resonated with me because of the Facebook dialog.
Everyone has made a plan, only to watch it disintegrate and perhaps even cause great pain. We’ve all poured our hearts and souls into relationships, experiences, projects, and businesses, only to watch them self-destruct.
Why does this happen? As Rob shares, We can not control outcomes. We can not control how people will respond to us, and to our work in the world.
Have you ever thought, “What about all the time I have wasted?” Has regret ever cut you so deep that you didn’t think you could stop your heart and spirit from bleeding?
The reason we feel this deeply about an outcome that did not materialize is because we threw everything we are into these efforts. We turned over our identities to these outcomes.
Our regrets are stories of blood, sweat, and tears. They are stories of risk, pain, and growth. They represent our willingness to take a leap of faith, to trust the unknown, to not live in the shadow of “What if…”
Our regrets are our proof of our ability to grieve, and to mourn. They show our capacity to move through disappointment, and to recover from events and experiences that at one point we believed would surely destroy us.
It is in the reflection of our regrets, and in our courage to come face-to-face with our regrets, that we are able to move beyond them.
The ability to accept, “This was supposed to happen and it didn’t” is one of the most liberating experiences we will ever have. The acceptance frees us to be open to unlimited possibility.
Accepting our regrets empowers us to accept that you did your best with the knowledge, experience, and perspective you had at the time. This is all part of the process of your life.
Nothing that has happened in your life is a waste.
The relationship that ended, the business that folded, the employee that didn’t produce, the product that didn’t launch, the contract you were not awarded, the investment that you lost..none of it is a waste. All of our experiences have brought you to where you are now.
The waste comes when you allow the past to paralyze you, when it impedes you from trying again, when it instills fear in you, when it destroys your self-belief and passion, or crushes your hope for a wonderful future.
The waste comes when you attach your present and future identity to a past you can not change.
Regret is a state of mind which you have the power to change at any moment. When we can embrace all of our decisions and outcomes from a place of grace and gratitude, when we can accept that dreams not fulfilled and roads not taken are part of our human condition, then we are free to welcome unlimited possibility.
I wish all of you the clarity and strength to free yourself from a mindset of regret, and the ability to welcome what the future holds with a clean slate.
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CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”