I would agree with those who say that regret is a waste of time and energy, but I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t experienced moments of regret. And that is especially true for those of us in midlife and beyond.
When you turn 40 you begin evaluating the decisions you’ve made in life and you may have a few regrets, but you still believe there is time to turn things around. In other words, you still believe you can make up for lost time. Then as you move into your mid-forties and early fifties you realize that some of the opportunities you missed are just that…they are missed. You will never get that opportunity again, and if you did you couldn’t do anything with it anyway.
I realize that sounds very depressing, and do you know why? Because it is depressing! It is depressing because it’s a loss. When we lose something it hurts, and we then have a choice to make. We can either allow that loss to ruin our life and keep us from moving forward or we can mourn the loss and find new opportunities to pursue.
We all know the great high school athlete like Uncle Rico (below)! You know, the athlete who lost out on a great opportunity either due to an injury or the coach who had something against them. They could have gone pro! They go through life with the woulda, coulda, and shoulda attitude. So for the next 30 to 40 years they go to every high school sporting event, and sit in the stands talking about the past and never accomplish anything in the present. However, those of us who missed out on an investment opportunity, ruined a relationship, didn’t make the most of our youth, or simply chose not to stay in college can also turn into an Uncle Rico. We get consumed with the regret, and don’t stop long enough to truly mourn the loss and move on.
So how do we mourn the loss?
Stop, Drop, & Roll: This is a very important step to take! You need to stop and seriously confront all of your regrets. For some of us that may mean finding a friend or therapist and opening up and being free to roll around in the pain. For others it may mean stopping, dropping to their knees in prayer, and rolling around in self pity. Regardless, I suggest getting it out of your heart, soul, and mind by talking about it and also writing it down (if it is highly personal you may want to destroy the evidence). I know this step is tough for my male readers, but you need to let it out my brother!
Stop the blame game: Once you get it out it is time to stop blaming yourself and others for the loss. Even if there is someone to blame…quit it! Accept the fact that you made a mistake or someone screwed you over, and let it go, and that leads to the final and most important step.
Stop holding a grudge: The most important step in this process is forgiveness. Forgive yourself and forgive others. When we forgive…we don’t forget, but we are able to reduce the impact of the past on the present.
Take a moment to set new and realistic goals for yourself. You and I may no longer be able to throw a spiral for one mile, but we can still enjoy the game!