Live with Fewer Regrets
Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC
Now that 2018 is coming to the end, many of us will take stock in how we spent this year. Did we do all the things we planned to do? Did we spend our time on our highest priorities? Did we live our values each day? Whenever I conduct this yearly evaluation, I try not to beat myself up if I fall short, and I try not to have a lot of regrets. We’ve been told not to regret the past because it’s over and robs us of the opportunity to live in the present moment.
Brene Brown offers a different perspective. In her book Rising Strong, she talks about regret being a function of empathy, meaning if we had the opportunity to do it over again, we’d do things differently. She says, “To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life… I believe that what we regret most are our failures of courage, whether it’s the courage to be kinder, to show up, to say how we feel, to set boundaries, to be good to ourselves. For that reason, regret can be the birthplace of empathy.”
In a keynote speech by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith in 2016, he said to visualize ourselves at 95 years old and he asked, “What would that 95-year-old person say to the current you right now? Follow your dreams now. Life is short; have fun now. We always regret the risks that we fail to take. And do whatever you can to help people because the 95-year-old you will be proud that you did.”
If you have regrets about what you did or didn’t do this year, missed opportunities, not speaking up, not living in the present, putting everyone else ahead of yourself, being impatient with others or lacking compassion, let them be lessons of what you will choose to do differently going forward and in the coming year. Have compassion for yourself in this reflection and realize that each regret is an opportunity to learn, grow and do better. Identify what you would do differently if faced with the same situation again, commit that action to memory, and then stop re-living past mistakes in your mind and in your life. Make a vow to live more courageously in 2019 by being truer to yourself and demonstrating your values.
The beauty of life is that each day is a chance to begin anew. We have the opportunity to be our best selves each and every day. I wish you abundant joy this holiday season and a brave New Year lived with fewer regrets.
“I’m a student of regret, and she’s a tough but fair teacher whose lessons on empathy and compassion are critical pieces of wholehearted living.” – Brene Brown
“Regrets about not taking chances have made me braver. Regrets about shaming or blaming people I care about have made me more thoughtful. Sometimes the most uncomfortable learning is the most powerful.” – Brene Brown
“Regret is one of the most powerful emotional reminders that change and growth are necessary.” – Brene Brown