There are few thigs in life that make you feel worse than regret for not having followed your heart and taken the risk of trying or of loving, even if you failed. Unrequited love feels painful, but it is a pain that comes after the euphoria of the attempt, after laying your soul bare and putting yourself out there on the line. Many times, that open and honest expression of love will be returned, even if not to the level that you may have desired.
The “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s” that result from not following your heart, not even trying, seem to linger much longer than the disappointment of rejection, of having tried and failed, whether in love or just in life. You can eventually reconcile with yourself for a failure, but there is no way to forgive yourself for a forfeiture – the failure to even try. The nagging question, “What if I had tried?” stays with you.
Following your heart will take you somewhere. Not following your heart just leave you sitting there wondering what might have happened and regretting not having tried.
So, today’s lesson, or advice, is to listen to your heart and give it a go. That is not to say to do stupid and dangerous things. Intelligence must be applied to everything that you might contemplate doing; however, especially in the case of relationships and maybe love, don’t let the fear of failure stop you from even trying. There is a sense of accomplishment to be found even in failure for having tried. “I did it. I tried.”, even while experiencing the pain of failure, it is more satisfying than wallowing in the regret, “I wish I had …”
I got the opportunity last weekend to deliver the Sunday sermon at my church in the absence of our Pastor. We say the Lord’s Prayer every week in preparation for Communion and a part of that prayer is are the lines “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive the trespasses of others”. I opined in that sermon that one of the “others” that we need to forgive is ourselves. The inability to forgive others or ourselves is a one-way ticket to unhappiness and maybe even to depression.
Men seem to have two innate tendencies that are their undoing – the need to understand everything and the need to control everything. Unfortunately, the need to understand things is thwarted by our limited imaginations and the need to try to control everything was never more than a pipedream. We can’t even control ourselves, much less anything else.
So, what we are left with is frustration and consternation. We are not at peace because we cannot stop fighting a battle that we cannot win against an enemy that we cannot even see, much less explain. I saw a quote recently that I will paraphrase – If you are having regrets you are living in the past. If you have anxieties you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot change the past or control the future. The only thing that you have any real power over is how you act and react in the present. You can be in turmoil, or you can be at peace. The choice should be a no-brainer, but it is very difficult for many.
I recently received a notification from WordPress.com where my blog is hosted that I had achieved one of their milestones – they informed me that I had posted my one thousandth blog post. As I looked back over the years of posts (I started posting to this blog in 2012) I noticed that I had posted many times about being at peace and how I have used the same little prayer for years to get to that peace – praying to God, “Not my will but thy will be done.”
The conclusion that I have come to is to forgive myself for any past failures, disappointments or sins (as God has forgiven me already) and put my trust in Him for my future. That leaves me peacefully happy in the present and I’m good with that. Try it, you might like it, too.
Two recent quotes from the Jack’s Winning Words blog seemed to fit together this morning –
“The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later…with astounding accuracy.” (Florence Shinn)
“The beginning of compunction is the beginning of a new life.” (George Eliot)
When I read the first quote I thought immediately of the 1961 song by Charlie Drake, “My Boomerang Won’t Comeback.” When looking up who sang the song, in almost every mention of it in the search results, it was labeled as a racist song. I never thought if it that way, but maybe that is one of my boomerangs returning to cause me compunction.
We see this boomerang effect quite often as we watch politicians or other “public figures” squirm and backpedal on TV as they are confronted by their past statements or actions. Some have developed compunction about those events and statements, but many still defend them. I recall the miraculous “conversion” of George Wallace from avid racist during his days as Governor of Alabama to the inclusive, anti-racist candidate for President. He could not duck fast enough to avoid those boomerangs.
I suspect that we all have boomerang moments in our lives when we said something or did something that later returned to us and perhaps some of them, we now have compunction about. We are becoming more and more aware of and perhaps having regrets for things that we might have said or done that contributed to what we now understand is systemic racism or homophobia. Most of it is because we allowed some of the bad “everybody knows” thinking and statements about those topics to seep into our thoughts and control our actions and reactions. We didn’t stop and think about who “everybody” is or to question or challenge the presumptions upon which the statements were based. We just accepted them and went on with life, thereby joining into the problem rather than seeking the truth.
The quote about compunction is the key to dealing with these boomerangs in our life. The fact is that we change over time. That change is usually driven by an increase in our knowledge of things that we may have just accepted without question earlier in our lives – the everybody knows things. We learn the truth behind some oof those assumptions and develop compunction about having been duped into a false conclusion. We regret having said things or done things that now seem unwise at best and hateful or harmful in many cases – we develop compunction.
How about you? Do you look back over your life and see things that you said or did that you are now regretful for having said or done? If you recognize them as such you are off to a good start at correcting them in the future. You can’t take back what you said or did 10-15-20 years ago, but you can recognize that they were wrong and have enough remorse and understanding of what would have been right to avoid a repeat of those mistakes in the future – you can have compunction.
One way to close the loop on the regrets that you might have is to lay them out to God in prayer and ask for His help to change you so that you do not do those things again. This is a form of “getting it off your chest”. You could seek out the person that you might have hurt with your remarks, but that is often impractical. You could stand on a street corner confessing your past misdeeds and statements, but that seems a bit dramatic. Just admitting it to the highest authority (God) out loud or in your thoughts as you pray has a cleansing effect. Then you can say, yes, your boomerangs came back, but you caught them and dealt with them the best way possible. You can accept God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself.
Now get out there and throw boomerangs that you will be proud of when they come back.
In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself to become what he potentially is.” (Erich Fromm)
Ironically, in today’s paper the cartoon Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis the cartoon character Pig is shone having a discussion with the character Goat. In the cartoon, Pig tells Goat, “I’ve decided to no longer let fear rule my life”; to which Goat replies, ”Good for you”. Then Pig says, “Instead I’ll choose regret.” In the last frame Goat just says, “Never Mind”, to which Pig relies, “Still bad, but so much less scary.”
It is unfortunate that so many, when faced with the challenges of living up to their potential choose to let fear rule their lives or make the choice that Pig did and live a life of regrets.
Most children are asked the ageless question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For the very young the answer often entails doing what their heroes do – maybe being a fireman or policemen or perhaps whatever it is that their dads or moms do. At those young ages they do not understand enough about life to let fear rule their lives.
As they get older the child is exposed to the realities of life, the educational or abilities requirements to become what they had dreamed about. For many, the hard work that they come to understand is required is the scary thing that puts them off-track.
There are no free passes to success in any chosen endeavor in life. One must work at it and work hard in many instances. Successful athletes are not just born to success – they work at it harder than others. Look at successful people in any field and you will find someone who was willing to overcome their fears and work hard at being successful. The most basic fear that they had to overcome was the fear of failure. Instead, they used failures as learning experiences and made the necessary changes to succeed the next time.
Living up to the potential of our lives is a full-time job and one with more than a few things that we could fear. Those who give up on that potential have chosen regret as a comfort zone. Get out of that comfort zone by recognizing it as the lie that it is. No matter what stage of life one is in there is still the potential to be your best and that potential should always serve as the guiding star for the direction in which you are headed.
While the profession or job that you have chosen provides a backdrop for being your best, the challenge is always to realize your potential as a human being – to be the best you that you can be. If you can look back on the things that you do at work or the decision that you made and are satisfied that you did th4e best that you could or made the best decisions that you could have, then you achieved your potential in that aspect of your life.
More importantly, look at your life in terms of your interactions with others. Are you the best husband/wife, father/mother, son or daughter or friend that you can be? Are there things that you can do differently in the future in those aspects of life to reach your potential? You need not let fear of failure dictate your interactions with others and you surely don’t want regrets to rule the day. Rather, work hard to overcome your fears of interpersonal relationships. Feed off the adrenalin that fear may release in you and use it to spur you on to success. Fear will turn to exhilaration, once it is overcome.
Pastor Freed wrote in his blog about being thankful for various people in his life who mentored him and helped him see and reach his potential. You may also have those types of people in your life or you may have to rely on yourself for the motivation to reach you potential. Remember that you also have God close at hand and you have but to call on him to receive that boost of confidence that you may need. If you believe that the path that you see as your potential is God’s will for you, how can you not succeed? Now, that is a formula for success.
Reaching your potential in life does not mean making the most money or having the most things. Reaching your potential in life means having people that you love and receiving their love back. It means having no regrets that you didn’t do the best that you could. It means ending up where God wanted you to be. Live up to your potential.
“You can’t regret making what you thought was the best decision at the time.” (Carol Channing) – quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog tody.
We call it second guessing and sometimes we do it to ourselves. You coulda (but, you didn’t). you woulda (but, you didn’t), you shoulda (but, you didn’t). Spending time regretting things that are already over is a worse waste of time that spending time worrying about things that may happen in the future. One can rationalize time spent worrying about the future as being time spent in planning, and some of it may be just that. There is no way to rationalize the time that you spend in regret for decisions actions of the past. Spending some time to learn from a mistake or poor decision is alright, so long as you accept that it is over and there is no way to change whatever happened.
One side benefit that can come out of trying to learn from your mistakes is the opportunity to examine your decision making process. Are you basing your decisions on sound evidence and facts, or do you allow pre-conceived notions or prejudices to creep into the process? What are the beliefs that you base your decisions upon – what provides you with your moral compass? Do you have the courage of your convictions; or, do you just find a way to go with the flow of the crowd, even if that direction is bad?
Every decision that you make has an alternative that you need to weigh, sometimes many alternatives. At a minimum, there is usually the “do nothing “alternative. Doing nothing, when you should have acted is probably the most regretted decision that people make. So, perhaps your first decision is that you will do something. We see stories all the time on the Nightly News about people who rush in to help someone out of a burning car or house. They made the quick decision to act, rather than just standing there pondering the alternatives. Of course, there are usually those who decide to take out their smartphones and capture the events on video rather than jump in and help. One has to wonder if they regret that later. If you remember the final episode of the Seinfeld TV series, you know, as they did, that it is wrong to be a voyeur in life.
So, learn from your past decisions, but live for the future. Coulda, woulda, shoulda about the past is as big, if not bigger, waste of time than Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt is about the future. Perhaps you should start each day by putting the past behind you and focusing upon making good decisions today. One way to do that is to check your moral compass before you set out and asking God to help you make those good decisions. Saying a little prayer that asks for God’s help in your decision-making brings Him out of your subconscious and into the conscious process that you go through to make those decisions. The impact of that can be dramatic and certainly cuts down on the regrets that you might otherwise have later on.
Have a great day. Ask for God’s help. Make good decisions. Have no regrets.
“A guilty conscious is a faults alarm.” – from the Graffiti cartoon
It’s amazing how many cartoonists also turn out to be pretty good philosophers. Most of them occasionally use the simplistic characters and story lines of their cartoons to explore some very weighty moral issues or to make moral points. There was great advice for life to be found in the fun that was drawn in Pogo, or Peanuts, or Calvin and Hobbs. The Graffiti cartoon uses only words (as they might be written or sprayed on a wall) and they are used sparingly; however, it often hits a moral issue or judgement dead-on. The brevity and cleverness of the little sayings of Graffiti often makes you stop and think. Sometimes you have to decipher and expand the little saying to understand its meaning, but there is always meaning.
Today’s little saying makes the case that our faults often result in having second thoughts, remorse or regret later for something that we’ve said or did. The fault is obvious – not being enough in control of ourselves to stop the remark or action before it occurs. Does that happen to you? I know that I have a tendency to sometimes blurt out things, either in judgement of someone or something or in reaction to something or someone’s remarks to us. Yes, I hear the alarms and realize that they go off all too often.
Sometimes the “fault” might actually be found in not saying or doing something when the situation requires it. Lowering your eyes or turning your head to avoid eye contact in situations when the right thing to do is to push back or challenge or rebut are also faults that also leads to a guilty conscious. Not standing up and helping the kid that is being bullied is just about as bad as being the bully himself. Not pushing back and sticking up for yourself when being bullied is also wrong. Letting the boss or the co-worker continue to get away with inappropriate behavior that makes you feel bad or insecure or even frightened, is not “going along to get along”; it is just another wrong and only adds to the problem. You may say, “It’s not my fault; however the fault of not doing something about those things that you know are wrong is yours and yours alone. Is that a nagging little alarm going off in the back of your mind?
The point of all this isn’t to send you into a weekend with a guilty conscious; but maybe to suggest that you listen to those little alarms that go off in your head, often in “real-time”, as the incident is occurring. Rather than reflect later on the faults that may have allowed you to act or react badly. Listen to the alarms as they start going off in your mind and pause to think before you act or react, before you blurt out a response or hit the send key on that flamming email. If the alarms going off are telling you that you’ll regret this action later, don’t do it.
That’s a tall order for anyone and requires a self-control that few have naturally. It starts by realizing and admitting to yourself that you have that tendency, to go off half-cocked or with only half of the story or that you sometimes act too hastily and get yourself into trouble or make the situation worse that it was. Think back on situations or incidents where you didn’t exercise that control and ask yourself why you did or said what you said and why you regretted it. Perhaps that will serve as motivation to develop a new personal habit to stop and think before you react – whether it’s stop and count to ten or to bite your tongue. Both of those pieces of “folk advice” are essentially artificial and mechanical ways to just get you to stop and think before you act.
If you can get yourself into the habit of stopping and asking yourself a few quick questions, such as – Do I understand what just happened and why? Why do I feel a need act or react? Do I have enough information to make a wise decision about what to do or say? Is what I’m about to do or say likely to resolve the issue at hand, calm the issue at hand or make the issue at hand worse? While that seems like a lot to think about when you read it here it really takes only a few seconds of thought time and could save many hours of remorse later. Snap judgements and the actions that we take based upon them are wrong all too often. Stop and think. You’ll make fewer mistakes and have less to regret later. It will also be much less noisy in your mind, with fewer alarms going off.
Have a great weekend. Practice your new habit of stopping and thinking before you act and that will help you when you get back to the more hectic work world.
“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong’. Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.” ― Charles M. Schulz
Like many in America, I grew up on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip. Admittedly I switched to the slightly edgier Calvin and Hobbs strip for the time that it existed, but Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts cast were always still there.
Schultz had a way of capturing the essence of the common man’s life and travails that few could match and Charlie Brown’s life became one with which many could identify.
Today’s Schultz saying certainly resonates with me. How often have I had sleepless nights worrying about something that I probably couldn’t change anyway? Sometimes the dread would be over events to come that might span many days perhaps a whole vacation that would be anything but a vacation for me or an upcoming closing on a real estate deal that I knew was going to be difficult. So, I also like another Schultz quote that seems to fit –
“I have a new philosophy. I’m only going to dread one day at a time.” (Charles Schulz)
Actually I’ve tried to adopt a much more positive attitude than those expressed by Schultz, I just like his sense of humor that is embedded in them.
I’ve written here before about dread and I found this little quote that sums that up nicely –
“Regret and fear (aka. dread) are twin thieves that rob us of today.”- Robert Hastings
I chose not to let those twins rule my life or rob me of today. They may steal a portion of the night on occasion, but by morning I try to put them aside and live that day as if it were my last – exploring, learning, sharing, enjoying and relishing it.
“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” – Groucho Marx
No doubt many of you may not even know who Groucho Marx was, but I grew up watching him and his brothers (The Marx Brothers) on TV and in movies, along with some other famous, but long gone comedy groups – The Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello and Martin and Lewis to name a few. Groucho always had a quick retort or funny line to drop, especially on his TV show – You Bet Your Life. Remember the line, “Say the secret word and the duck will come down and give you $100”?
Yesterday is over and tomorrow will take care of itself when it gets here. Have a great today!
“Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.” (Victoria Holt)
Regret is one of those human nature things that are hard for many to let go of, just like self-doubt. Some may mask the term in other words, like “Monday morning quarterbacking”; however, that Monday morning look back only has positive value if it is used as a way to glean experience and not as an opportunity to wallow in regret.
Although the quotes of athletes is often derided as being full of cliques; there is much truth in many of those cliques about looking ahead and not back or putting things behind them. Professional athletes know that they cannot dwell in regret over every loss. They try to learn from those setbacks. They spend time in the film rooms reviewing a blown play or a missed opportunity to see what they can learn from them.
Life is full points in time where decisions were made that might have been made differently. Some of those times turned out OK and we seldom think back on what might have been, had we taken the other choice that was in front of us at the time. But, sometimes things didn’t turn out as we had planned or thought that they would and we tend to look back and see (or find) those decision points where we might have done it differently, especially if we knew the potential outcome. Well, we weren’t prescient and things turned out the way they did. Let it go. Move on. If you must replay the film in your mind, at least treat it as a learning opportunity and not an opportunity to beat yourself up.
In the Frank Sinatra song My Way, about aging he has a line – “Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to mention.” The song goes on to extoll the virtue of moving on and doing things in life your own way. At the end of the day, the main regret you will have if you let things get you down and you spend time in self-abusing remorse, is that you’ve wasted another day. Life’s too short to throw days away.
So, rather than spend time regretting things; let’s all think about the words of another song, this one by Bobby McFarland – “Don’t worry, be happy.”