Dealing with Regrets
Paths not taken are as impactful to your future success as your perception allows. For some, letting go of past regrets is a simple process- a lesson learned and one moves on. For others, the process is much more painful and even worse, stifling. Thus, instead of giving the typical sermon of how to let things go, I propose that you take a deeper look into your past perceived short comings. It could be one decision or it could be a series of choices that led to your current state. Whatever the case, grab a paper and pen and take ten minutes to go through this exercise.
Construct a 3-column chart
Step 1 List every single thing that you have regretted in the past 5 years (or in life if you really want to take it there)
- Education- Ex. choice of school, career wise- Ex. Volunteer vs Corporate, family wise- Ex. Marriage vs being single
- Keep in mind that the list can be as short or as long as you prefer. My suggestion though, is to stick with 10 items or less. That way you can really analyze each point.
Step 2 List every single perceived outcome that correlates with that regret.
- Key word here is “perceived”. It is a perception that doing event A would undoubtedly lead to opportunity B. But life is not that simple so it is not an exact given statement but the point is to get your feelings out there regarding your perceived opinion of the path not taken.
Step 3 Now in the 3rd column list reasons why you did not pursue that opportunity.
- This is the most invaluable part of this exercise. And be completely honest as to why you did not pursue the opportunity. And if there are a number of reasons why you didn’t do it, then list ALL of them.
Step 4 Look at column number 3:
- Read it, analyze it, and dissect it. Is there a consistent pattern, are you loosing out on opportunities for the same reason? Even if there is no repetitive reason, analyze the issue or theme that emerges.
- Think about whether the reasons listed in column 3 are in your control or not. Things like family upbringing and financial circumstances are temporary realities that must be accepted before progress can be achieved. The age-old quote holds true “We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, or the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time or conditions of our death. But within all this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we shall live:- Joseph Epstein
- Focus on things that you can control, like fear, laziness, guilt etc.
Step 5 Learn to let go. There are many ways to say this but just let it go. Lesson learned. Then move on.
Why I didn’t do it
|Didn’t study abroad||I would have been bi-lingual and would have better job prospects||Couldn’t afford the expenses. And I would not be able to attain a scholarship. They are extremely competitive.|
|Didn’t do any internships||Didn’t have enough work experiences to apply for my dream job||Too lazy to submit the application. It was 4 pages long with an essay! Plus I don’t think my recommenders would submit a positive review.|
|I should of applied to the new management position||I would have had management experience||I was too scared to submit the application and get rejected. Plus I don’t think my current boss would approve.|
Reflection Take Away
I’ve limited my opportunities because I was not comfortable in my abilities and other people’s perceptions of me. Etc…