The Value In Learning From Our Regrets

Regrets. They make you feel sad in the pit of your stomach. Optimists ignore them. And pessimists dwell on them. All of us have them. Often they involve things beyond our control. The most piercing ones involve things that were within our control.

Most of mine involve my previous marriages and what I could have done differently to save them; some involve how I raised my son. Most of my regrets foment on what I would have done differently if I had known then what I know now. But I couldn’t have known then what I know now, so I try to forgive myself, move on and apply my hard-earned knowledge to the future.

What do I really regret the most?

  1. Jumping into my first marriage when I should have recognized I needed to live independently before entwining my life with another at the tender age of 22.
  2. Having a child with someone who wasn’t ready to be a parent, rather than waiting for someone who would be there for me.
  3. Having an affair during my 20s, which led to keeping secrets from people who trusted me.

On deeper reflection, I realize that I got something I wanted or needed out of everything I now regret, and that there is a common thread to the situations I most regret. A lot of the situations involved my desire for immediate gratification rather than waiting for a better fit for me.

Fortunately, there have been fewer incidents that have led to regret as I’ve grown older. When decision points occur, I now know that I must take time to figure out what choice I will regret least and which I’ll regret the most. You often have to give up something dear to get something dearer.

Regrets of people who are dying ~

The senior minister at my church, Rev. Jim Gertmenian, recently posted an article on Facebook from The Guardian written by an Australian palliative care nurse who has a blog called Inspiration and Chai. The article has tremendous insights into what her patients in the last stages of life regretted most. She organized these regrets into five primary categories: working too much, not tending friendships carefully, not being true to oneself, not having the courage to express feelings, and not doing what it took to achieve happiness.

Some of us have longer than others to change our lives, so we’ll have fewer regrets. What will you do to ensure that you are more content with your future decisions and less regretful?


About the Author 

Lynn Nelson has over 20 years of experience in public relations, public affairs and communications. She’s owned her own consulting firm, LINPR for over 15 years and maintains a balanced life as a wife, mother and working professional.

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