Two great songs, two great singers:
My Way by Frank Sinatra
Non, je ne regrette rien by Edith Piaf
However when it comes to singing about regrets, I think I lean toward ol’ blue eyes.
Yup regrets, I’ve had a few. Not a lot but there are a couple worth mentioning.
In high school I wanted to become a journalist. I loved the power of the written word and the idea of a job in which you delved into complex topics and then shared those stories was appealing. Maybe even photo journalism. But by the time it came to apply to university I had talked myself out of it. The employment opportunities for a teacher seemed so much better than a writer.
Sometimes we have instant regret about decisions but most of the time our regrets creep up on us. That’s what happened in this case. I had a fulfilling career as a teacher but along the way I starting wondering what life would have looked like if I had chosen journalist over teacher.
It happened too when in my 30’s travel became more of an interest. Why didn’t I start travelling sooner? There are more places to see in the world than time available to visit them. Imagine if I had started ten years earlier with fewer commitments and more disposable income.
When people tell me that they have no regrets, I don’t believe them. Everyone has something undone, some opportunity skipped over, some past choice that leaves them pondering what life might have looked like. We just don’t label them as regrets because we equate regret with big mistake. They are not mistakes, just choices not taken.
Regrets nag at us because they are the ultimate “what if”.
How would things be different we had made different choices?
It’s an interesting question although like most past thinking it takes us away from choices that might be available to us right now in this moment. Decisions we made in the past, consciously or unconsciously, are done deals. We can’t alter them but we can pay attention to the ones we are making today.
In the end maybe Piaf had a point.
Even when we have regrets we don’t have to regret them.
That’s because regrets may actually work in our favour. When we get that “darn it I wished I’d done that” feeling, it can serve as a reminder to go for it now. We can’t go back in time but many of those same choices we didn’t make then actually exist today, perhaps in a different form.
I didn’t become a journalist but I have written 3 books. I have a greater appreciation for travel now than I might have had in my 20’s. Back then I still thought you tried to cram as much into a trip as possible – 20 countries in 20 days. Now I know that it’s not about how much you see but how you are as you are seeing it.
Here’s what you can do:
Think about the things that you wish you had done.
Write them down.
Now look at that list and see the messages waiting for you. Your past regrets are telling you to do something now. Go ahead and do it. No regrets…even if you don’t.
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What gets you wondering what if?