It happens. You regret. You feel sad, anxious, fearful… and mad.
I remember like it was yesterday my mother’s warning during one of many cherished conversations when I was home from college visiting: Too many people I know are suffering with regrets… don’t let that happen to you…
And years later…
A graduate school professor responded to my letter expressing regret for trusting others: Don’t become bitter because of the betrayal you feel… it’s par for the course… and ultimately strengthening…receive others when they are capable of growing… however, there is a “cure” for the pain of self-betrayal — learn to forgive yourself…
I think feeling regretful is a normal human experience. In fact I’m reassured because without some remorse, you’re leaning too much towards the end of the scale that’s sociopathic. So, It’s good to know people can feel sorry or regretful.
The difference is what we do with the regret and the emotions regret fosters. For some there seems to be a path towards resilience, for others defeat.
Studies reveal two patterns of regrets that show up for people in business and life…
ONE– Regrets that come from Failing To Do Something:
Starting a new business, like a pet day-care or finishing the real estate course or nursing program, not having enough confidence in myself, not applying for the dream job, turning off my phone so I could be present with my loved ones, letting myself gain too much weight, not visiting family more often, failing to take vacations more often, working nonstop with no strategic planning, hanging in there when adversity happens in my business, keeping quiet when I have something to say.
TWO– Regrets that come from the Something You Do:
Worrying about what others think of me, accepting a job I knew deep down I really didn’t want, getting married when I knew we weren’t a good fit, giving up on my marriage too soon, living anxiously with a scarcity mindset, doing it alone rather than seeking support, working and sacrificing personal time with friends and family, eat unhealthy too often.
So, you regret. What’s next?
In this article…
I’ll share six strategies I have learned over the years about managing regrets so they become a catalyst for success in business and life.
How does it go? If life gives you lemons— Make LEMONADE first!
1— Bring some sugar.
That is, whether it’s lemonade, a lemon pie or a regret about something you failed to do or something you have done, don’t forget to bring some sweetness to soften the pain, bitterness, sadness and/or anger.
After all, you’re human. And good for you if you have the courage to own your own stuff and look.
You’re already walking the path of resiliency with recognition and truth-telling. And who better to be honest with than yourself? It does start with you.
Smile. You deserve your own kindness.
Nurturing yourself now prepares you to receive the lessons available which will ultimately lead to better choices in the future. That’s good business.
Drink more lemonade and consider doing the rest…
2— Grieve your losses.
Deal with the disbelief, anger at yourself and sadness. Just how many times can you say, I can’t believe I did this or didn’t do that! Many. Too many.
The quickest way to move through grief is to acknowledge the feelings/thoughts present. For regret there is usually a significant sadness and an anger component. Some people are in touch with their sadness first, others anger. Both need attention.
Here’s a simple strategy:
I’m sad that ___________________ and I say goodbye to that.
I’m angry that__________________and I say goodbye to that.
Repeat as many times as you have responses.
For example, let’s say you feel regret having so little confidence in yourself and went along with what others said about you, even when you felt it was off.
I’m sad that…
— I didn’t have the strength to challenge what I knew didn’t fit… and I say goodbye to that.
— I didn’t get help sooner from someone wiser and objective…and I say goodbye to that.
Great! Now, complete the sentence stem about any angry feelings regarding your little self-confidence…
I’m angry that…
–– Others who know me didn’t wake me up to my talents… and I say goodbye to that.
— I let myself feel defeated too soon… and I say goodbye to that.
— I dismissed feedback that was positive and held back… and I say goodbye to that.
— My mother had died and wasn’t there to lift me up… I was depressed… and I say goodbye to that.
Read these aloud to someone you trust. Make sure they know to listen and accept what you say rather than try to talk you out of it. Don’t let them add or take away from what you write.
Some people tear up their lists and/or burn them. Find your release and breathe. Notice more energy?
3— Forgive yourself and others.
You’re not perfect and neither is anyone else.
Here’s the deal:
We can strive for excellence because there’s an allowance for mistakes and a learning curve. Perfection is its own defeat waiting to happen… there’s no room for mistakes… you get criticism, not forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a lot easier when you’re striving for excellence rather than perfection.
4— Reclaim the positive, the dream.
My client regretted the time she followed the lead of others and produced less creative work of her own. She described it as a tightening in her chest she always carried. She was successful, but didn’t feel she was working up to her potential. It seemed to be a theme which dominated a decade or more of her life in business and personal relationships.
Now she was talking about cutting back on some creative projects because of her demanding schedule and budgeted time and money. Her list of “cuts” included some of the very projects she clearly loved as well as people whom she described as inspirational.
We looked at her business “dream” and it became apparent to her the “cuts” she was proposing would continue to keep barriers up for the very creativity she wanted to unleash.
Instead, she was motivated to keep, not “cut” the creative projects and reclaim her dream of being the author of her own work.
Now that’s a sweet taste of grandma’s delicious lemon cream pie made right!
5— Live, take risks and learn.
The good news is that it’s more often the things we FAIL to do which people regret more. So, what are you waiting for… get to it and do the thing you’ve been wanting to do… don’t wait. Make risk your new friend and complacency old news.
Another pearl my mother gave me… Mary, you’re either living or dying.
Living and learning hold hands… and sometimes you have to say goodbye before you can say hello. It’s a dance floor with lots of room for giving, taking, receiving, holding on and letting go. Take a risk and ask that guy/gal to dance. You’d rather ask and deal with rejection than not ask at all. Who knows, you could get lucky!
Learn to say, What’s next? when facing a regret. It’s an invitation to life’s possibilities. Motivating too.
6—Take responsibility from the get go and prepare.
Start with the end in mind says Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Start with the vision of your dream realized AND the willingness to accept the consequences/risks involved. Be strategic and prepare. Deal with any trace of regret immediately. Know that it’s wise to heed the words: You’ll never achieve any level of success alone.
In other words, hire a mentor or coach to help you prepare and plan your actions. Keep the momentum. I don’t know what the return on investment will be exactly, I just know it will be.
The takeaway is…
In life and business it’s possible to feel regretful.
Let regrets motivate you to make better choices for your business, professional and life success.
A resilient pathway through regrets includes a generous serving of kindness, grieving the losses by acknowledging the sadness and anger, forgiving self and others, reclaiming the positive dream, advancing the learning achieved and preparing for what’s next.
Reach out to me today and let’s talk about your dream vision and map out what’s next.