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 every day?
The root of the word "regret" has two possible sources,
1) from the French "to weep" +
"re"; to weep over and over again (from a loss)
2) 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
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
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
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
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 forward?
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
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
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
Robert Knowlton is an Executive Success Coach, coaching in leadership development, advanced
communication strategies, and realizing your personal and business purpose and