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I don't really have a lot of regrets in my life.  I've made tons of mistakes, and I've done a lot of very stupid things.  I've hurt people-- inadvertently, for the most part--and I've done damage in situations that didn't need me to do that.  But through it all, I've been able to keep in mind a couple of important things:  first, that I've done the best that I can in all situations based on what I've known and who I was at the time, with no intent at all to hurt in any way; and second, that I've learned so much from my mistakes that I would never have grown to be a better person without them.

I haven't been perfect, but who has?  There are many things in my past that I would love to get back, to get a chance at a do-over, but that's not going to happen.  The best thing that I can do right now is to live right now, focused on the present, in the hope that I'm not going to do many more things that I'm going to classify as mistakes.  I'm not going to make my present positive by fixating on mistakes from my past that I regret, but I most certainly can sabotage the present by allowing my past to dominate my mind.

Of course, there are regrets with a capital "R," and those with a small "r."  Not all regrets are the kind that may keep us up at night, that may make us feel awful even years afterwards.

It's important that we keep that in mind, for sometimes it's easy to turn the little regrets into the big ones.  There are certain career and education decisions that I may regret not making, certain financial decisions that I may regret making, but when I realize that the present is what it is, I realize also that those regretful feelings aren't all that important.  I also realize that if I had made a different decision in the past, there's nothing saying that any situations would have turned out any better than they did--in fact, they might have turned out worse.  While I have the gift of hindsight now, I didn't have that when I was deciding what to do in the past.

I do regret not getting to know certain people better--but I did do my best, given my situations.  I regret not seeing more things when I lived in Spain and Germany--but I did see a lot.  I prefer to think of the positive people whom I have known, and my opportunities to get to know them, and I prefer to think of the things I did see and do in Europe rather than the things I didn't.  I know that we give to life what we can give at any given moment, that we're not ready for certain things at certain times, so missing out on some opportunities is going to happen--and the best thing we can do is deal with that reality for what it is and not wish that things had been different.

I have known people whose lives seemed to be an endless stream of melancholy days, and when I asked them how they were, they almost never answered fine.  They were caught up in thinking about mistakes they had made in the past, in things they had done wrong, and they couldn't approach their todays with a sense of hope and joy and love--after all, they had done something wrong, so shouldn't they pay for it?  It was a perspective that made me very sad, for these were people with great gifts that they could have shared with many other people, if only they could have stopped allowing regret to take over their present moments and make them miserable.

You will have regrets.  Make amends for whatever you've done wrong, accept the fact that you didn't make the right decision a time or two, and move on.  Life is a dynamic experience, and getting caught up in one or two moments and not allowing yourself to move on with life is a sure way to diminish the potential for joy and happiness in your life, as well as your ability to help others to get the most out of their lives, too.


If things are tough, remember that every flower had to go through a whole
lot of dirt to get there.  So do not grieve about a bitter experience.  The
present is slipping by while you are regretting the past and worrying about
the future.  Regret will not prevent tomorrow’s sorrows;
it will only rob today of its strength.

Barbara Johnson


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Temporary feelings of regret are a normal part of the mourning
process.  This helps us retrieve our lost dreams.  If we hold on
to regret, we risk trapping ourselves in a prison of unrealized
dreams from which it is difficult to escape.

Barbara de Angelis


Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time;
it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.

Sydney J. Harris


Often regret is very false and displaced, and imagines
the past to be totally other than it was.

John O’Donohue

Regret is ... an unavoidable result of any loss, for in loss we lose
the tomorrow that we needed to make right our yesterday or today.

Gerald Lawson Sittser

I'm the kind of person who would rather rock in my rocking chair
when I'm old and regret a few things that I did than
to sit there and regret that I never tried.

Dolly Parton

If you ask me about my life, and ask if I have regrets, I would
be pretty quick to acknowledge that I don't have regrets.   I've
grown to be OK with "me."  Don't be fooled by my answer though--
I have made plenty of mistakes!  I've been reckless and thoughtless,
silly and some other unflattering descriptions.  I used to think that
mistakes automatically equated with regrets.  On my personal path,
however, I have learned to take responsibility for the actions (and
inactions) of my past, to make peace with myself and others,
and then to simply let go.

Beth Burns

Regret for time wasted can become a power for good in the time that
remains, if we will only stop the waste and the idle, useless regretting.

Arthur Brisbane

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed
one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one
more deal.  You will regret time not spent with
a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.

Barbara Bush

If you have had a number of opportunities to talk to people at the end of their lives,
you have probably been struck with how many regrets most individuals carry to
their graves.  Contrary to what most people assume, the regrets of the dying usually
are not about the goals they failed to reach, the experiences they never had, or the
places they meant to see but never did.  Most often their regrets are about the ways
they hurt someone or the things they failed to do for certain people.  All their lives
they have been carrying these heartaches, these very sore places in their minds,
and now they think it's too late to heal and be healed.

Hugh Prather

Let the lessons of life's errors sink in, but time spent in vain regret
is one hundred percent wasted.  To regret is to resurrect your mistakes.
Any person is liable to make mistakes, but only a silly person
will try to resurrect them.

Fred Van Amburgh


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In history as in human life, regret does not bring back a lost moment
and a thousand years will not recover something lost in a single hour.

Stefan Zweig

Regret is an appalling waste of energy.
You can't build on it; it's only good for wallowing in.

Katherine Mansfield


Regret is time doubly wasted. If you made a mistake, you may believe
that a moment or years were for naught. If you regret your mistake, you
are wasting the current moment as well. If you learned from the mistake,
the time and experience were worthwhile.

Alan Cohen
The Tao Made Easy


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I listened, in my youth, to conversations between grown-up people through which there breathed a tone of sorrowful regret which oppressed the heart. The speakers looked back at the idealism and capacity for enthusiasm of their youth as something precious to which they ought to have held fast, and yet at the same time they regarded it as almost a law of nature that no one should be able to do so. This woke in me a dread of having ever, even once, to look back on my own past with such a feeling; I resolved never to let myself become subject to this tragic domination of mere reason, and what I thus vowed in almost boyish defiance I have tried to carry out.

Albert Schweitzer
Memoirs of Childhood and Youth


Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.



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