One of the biggest regrets I have is not joining the military. I grew up hearing stories from my uncles about fighting in the Pacific and European campaigns during World War II. My Dad was in the Air Force during the Korean War and my older brother joined the Navy right after graduation.
I graduated from High School in 1991 – Many of my friends went to Desert Storm. I should have been there too.
I chose college – for better or worse – it’s my regret.
What’s yours? We all have them, but somehow we think we’re the only ones.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Regret is the second most frequently mentioned emotion in the daily lives of people. It’s a feeling of sadness about something done wrong or about a mistake that you have made. Regret is often experienced as a wish that it could have been different and better somehow.
The table of regret is big…everyone has regrets.
I should have said….
I shouldn’t have said….
I should have done…
I shouldn’t have done….
I should have attended …
I shouldn’t have attended….
THERE ARE SO MANY AREAS OF REGRET
Diet- Courtney Ferreira, a licensed dietitian nutritionist says, “It can feel like that feeling in the pit of your stomach like you did something terrible. It can feel as bad as waking up after a regretful night of drinking, or the feeling you get when you tell a white lie, or treat a loved one badly. It is dread. It is despair. But it’s just about food.” She calls it food regret and many of us feel it after the holiday or weekend binge. It’s real.
Career- How many of us look back over the last 5 or 10 years of our lives and wonder how we ended up in such a boring job? What if we had followed our passions? What if we had partnered with that guy in college who owns his own business now?
Relationships- This one is dangerous, but one so many of us deal with. Do you regret going back to her apartment? Perhaps you regret wasting the last 7 years with a guy that just won’t commit to marriage. Maybe you regret not asking for her number at the party. Or perhaps you regret not asking her to marry you.
Laughter- Never regret laughter. It’s medicine for the soul, but all to often neglected by a serious and overly busy life. Laugh with your kids, laugh with your spouse, laugh with your friends, and most importantly – laugh at yourself.
One of the biggest regrets people have is that they lived life too seriously. Roy T. Bennet once said, “Don’t waste your time in anger, regrets, worries, and grudges. Life is too short to be unhappy.”
Risk-taking- I’ve never met a person that regretted taking a risk- they all regretted playing is too safe. Safety is for children, and even then is mostly an illusion created by parents. Helen Keller once said, “Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
Saving/investing- A new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that most people regret their saving choices. Most of the respondents, 84%, felt they’d saved enough to meet their current needs and 53% believed they had enough or “just enough” for their current needs too. And yet their savings was still not high enough to avoid regret and feel secure. The respondents, on average, think there’s a 59% chance they will run out of money and many worry about the viability of Social Security and Medicare. Are you saving enough or will you outlive your money?
Education- A new annual survey conducted by Gallup and Strada Education Network, found that 51% of the nearly 90,000 respondents said the most common regret was their choice of major, with 36% saying they wish they’d chosen differently.
I’ve taught at the college level for over 16 years and I’ve seen freshmen enroll into a major that has no career 4 years later – It’s heartbreaking to watch. Yet, I’ve seen others bemoan not getting a higher degree in their field because of the career advancements that come with education.
Mark Twain wrote, “A clear conscience is the sign of a bad memory.” We all have regrets. Welcome to the human race.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re not be as special as you think – we all make mistakes.
HOW TO LEARN THE LESSON BEFORE YOU MOVE ON
Be open about your failures and see them as a series of lessons. Doing so can help you tell you story with delight. We all have regrets and those mistake add color and texture to your unique story and journey.
Learn to look at your past regrets, not with shame or guilt, but as a way to extract wisdom for your future.
Look for new insights on things to include or exclude in your future actions. Each regret tells us so much about ourselves and lights a path into the future we deeply desire.
Pay attention to the pain produced by those regrets. Pain always points toward a passion. It tells us what is missing in our life and guides us toward our better selves.
What was your biggest regret of the last year?
What was the lesson to be learned?
What change can you make to prevent that regret from repeating itself?
If you can answer those questions, it wasn’t a failure—it was a life lesson that can import wisdom into your future.
GET OVER THE MOMENT & GET ON WITH YOUR LIFE
Amy Summerville, from the University of Miami in Ohio, runs the Regret Lab and explains that while everyone has some regrets, “Regret is only toxic when it becomes habitual. That is, when we develop the reflex to chew and chew on an unfortunate turn of events, like the cow on its cud, till there’s not a lick of nutrition left in it.”
There is little value spending our life looking in the rear- view mirror so we can relive, recycle, and regurgitate a key event in perpetuity!
Own it. Accept it. Deal with. Then move on!
You can still look back with a kind heart and self-forgiveness. See a little bit of humor in it. Give yourself permission to be human, to fail, to make mistakes, and to step in it once in a while.
Give yourself the grace to enjoy a learning curve of improvement.
Steve Maraboli, author of Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience writes in his book, “We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”
I regret not joining the military, but I don’t regret where I am now. I’m going to use what life has taught me to help as many people as I can today.