PERSPECTIVES: REGRET – PRISON OR PIVOT?

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“If Only…”

 

Regret.

A kind word left unspoken. A thoughtless deed. A resignation done in anger. A love affair that rips a family apart. No-one is immune – husbands and wives, politicians and rock gods – all succumb at one point through life.

“If only…”

A way to try and conjure up alternative past worlds. But there is no way of knowing how they would have turned out. What paths they might have trodden. Frank Sinatra’s attitude in “My Way” sums it up “Regrets I have a few, but then again too few to mention”.

On a rerun of my life I would have done many things differently but I made some choices along the way which blessed me with great friends and watershed opportunities that completely redirected my life and which were – on reflection – the result of what I view as Divine Intervention. Else they must have come about by extraordinary confluence of circumstance. If so, why have I not yet won Lotto?

 

Physical

Think yourself healthy.

Regret and emotional distress can lead to vulnerabilities which result in physical and mental health challenges. For this reason alone regret should not become a central theme in your life.

“There, but for the grace of God, go I”. It has been said that those who are thankful for their blessings when evaluating their lives with others who are worse off, experience positive emotional wellbeing – and fewer health issues.

 

Social

Life is about choices. Evaluate them – and their possible outcomes – before committing.

We have all seen a colleague, friend or family member, maybe ourselves, make regrettable choices about events that could have been controlled – but were neglected – the outcomes of which eventually resulted in regret and heartache, personally and for loved ones.

However, let any regret be brief and mistakes and misfortune be learning experiences.

 

Mental

Live here-and-now.

Life does not “just happen”; it is the product and sum total of choices that we make over time – and it is thus no secret that regret about periods of procrastination ranks higher with advanced age. Procrastination about matters of health, finance and not having spent enough time with loved ones.

It is human to have a regret or two of varying intensity. But rise above it and go on living. Manage it productively and deny it becoming a central piece in your life. Let it inspire you to – where possible – repair what can be repaired. Though future events cannot erase the past, history also bears witness to a procession of famous people who accomplished much after experiencing a regrettable – even tragic – event in their lives.

 

Emotional

Who can fathom the grief and sorrow of a Mother – staring at the open grave of a child – and the regret of having left that last birthday card un-posted? Or missed making one more phone call.

If only…

A final goodbye may come unexpectedly, knowing that you will never be able to say one more time “I love you”. Those who have lost a parent, life-partner, sibling or child unexpectedly through death, often regret not having spent more time with them. Seeing the flowers on the coffin of my youngest brothers I asked “Why do people wait till you die before they give you flowers?”

Guard against depression – its darker cousin that attacks regardless of age. Two cases touched me closely. One became physically sick due to a deep depression following the loss of her father she missed saying goodbye to that morning. Another, a mother and longtime friend, sank into a dark and silent pit for months at a mature age. Both recovered – daresay with lifelong scars – and God forbid a relapse.

The events in your life play out over a certain arc. Who knows where the arc would have led should actions and events have been different. The future past of “if only…” might have presented much more regret to have dealt with.

Leave “could have, should have, and would have” at the Doorstep of Dawn as you walk out to conquer a New Day. A New Chapter. And spend the 86,400 seconds of your day wisely.

 

Intellectual

Aiming for perfection will keep you in bed forever.

Get up and create your destiny. On the way there will be reasons for reflection, possibly even regret. But keep building your legacy in spite of it.

Live every day in two ways: Do the best you can – compartmented in today – warts and all. Then leave it behind when you get up tomorrow to start a new day – but keep your End Story in mind. Remember your Legacy is the Conclusive Chapter in your Book of Life.

 

Spiritual

Live here and now.

We stand in this moment in time. Yesterday is gone – unchangeably. Tomorrow has not arrived – and for some it won’t.

Do not be kept a prisoner by the past or forever be a bride-in-waiting for tomorrow. Learn through Life’s actions – both successes and sorrows, failures and fortunes – without “If only…

 

KEY PRINCIPLES

  • Emotional distress and regret can lead to physical vulnerability that may result in health problems.
  • Life is about choices that lead to outcomes – some pleasant, some unpleasant.
  • Regret is commonplace and regret about periods of procrastination ranks higher with advanced age.
  • The past cannot be erased, but don’t be kept prisoner by it either.
  • We are all human and will make mistakes. Aiming for perfection will keep you in bed forever.
  • We stand in this moment in time. The here and now.

 

ACTION STEPS

  • Think positively. Think yourself healthy.
  • Let any regret be brief – and a learning experience.
  • Manage regret productively and deny it a central piece in your life.
  • Leave “could, should, would have” at the Doorstep of Dawn as you walk out to conquer a New Day.
  • Live every day in two ways: Do the best you can every day – and keep the End Game in mind.
  • Live a principled and ethical Life.

 

(“PERSPECTIVES” are excerpts from my forthcoming book of the same name, to be published by Partridge Publications in early 2015.)

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