Leave Your Regrets in the Past

Leave Your Regrets in the Past

Regrets hold you captive in a past you cannot change and keeps you imagining a future that will never be. 

Shelly Drymon

Photos is of me somewhere off the Southern Oregon Coast – 2015. Photo credit Steve Weiss 

Adults have an incredible gift for looking into the past at decisions made, and in our imaginations visualize a future that could have been. Neal Roese, Ph.D., a social psychologist, and professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University said, “Our brains are really good at elaborating on or constructing these alternative worlds in which we would have done different things, and a lot of this really is based on our desires, our wants, or needs. It’s basically a reflection of us wanting to get somewhere.” 

Some say gift. I say curse!  

I was the Director of Development for a nonprofit organization that hosted a golf tournament fundraiser. We sold mulligans. This is a do-over after your first try was not as good as you had hoped.  

Would you go back for a do-over, knowing what you know now? Just curious.  

You can listen to the audio version of my posts here. Episodes drop on Monday mornings.

Here’s a personal example of things not done. I am sure you have your own similar story.  

I’m disappointed that I’m not more financially stable at 60. I sometimes regret not saving enough money, and for choosing the advanced education and career path I did. There is no money in social work, just a lot of feel-good moments.  

This is what Daniel Pink, author of the book The Power of Regret, calls a foundational regret. “If only I had done the work of saving money.”

Additionally, I can look back at the decisions made that contribute to my financial state now, and project what my life could be today had I made different or better decisions.  

This is an exercise in futility, right? It’s pointless and won’t produce any useful results. Because no matter how badly I want to, I cannot go back and change the past.  

However, there are ways to move forward with these regrets, use them for good, and start living a life on purpose.  

Click on photo and get your own 60 and Sensational mug! Or purchase one for your bestie!

We can get out of the prison of regrets by letting them go. I know this is easier said than done. However, there are some things you can do to help, as long as you take action.

Do you have a regret(s) that eats away at you every day?  

If so, write about that regret – you can do it privately in your journal or publicly. It’s up to you. Or tell a friend. In a podcast episode Daniel Pink talks about regret circles – a gathering of individuals who talk about their regrets. In these regret circles you others in the group can help you gain clarity into what you learned and what you can do next time.

Give yourself compassion.  

This is important. We love to beat ourselves up every day for decisions made. Yet when a friend is in need we go and give her a big hug – “There, there” we say. I look back at my regrets and I tell myself that I did the best I could, with what I knew and had at that time. Would I do things differently now, knowing what I know. You bet.  

Hindsight – what a gift right?  

Practice Gratitude

I was a non believer in gratitude.  What did I have to be grateful for? When I sat down and thought about it, I had so much to be grateful for, even in what I considered my darkest moments.  

Equally important, start writing down what you are grateful for.  Yes, you may do it grudgingly as I did, but as time went on the more I practiced being grateful, the more positive I became about my life.  

 You are listening to this podcast episode, right or perhaps reading the transcript on your tablet? Apparently, you are alive and kicking at this moment. Be grateful for that. A smashing good place to start.  

Can you reframe a regret? Or perhaps just a slight makeover. 

I use the example of me staring the cello at the age of 60. One of my biggest regrets was not pursuing music after high school. That’s a long-time folks, as I graduated in 1980! I started piano at the age of five, played through sixth grade. That is when I picked up the clarinet, and would later play tenor sax, bass clarinet, and become drum major my senior year.  

I’ve always been fascinated with the cello, and for decades have said, “I sure would love to play the cello.”  Yet did nothing. In July of 2022, the year I turned 60 something just snapped. I rented an adult student cello, contacted a cello player I knew and started taking lessons.  

Is it being a band director? Am I a famous tenor sax player in a band? No to both. However, I am pursuing a love of music I started at the age of five. Yes, the destination looks different, but it’s a way I can do something with this regret.  

I have found that by taking up cello playing, I’ve been able to just let go of many regrets.  

Rob Howze – Director of Client Relations and Productions at Simply Automate, Inc – said in a podcast episode, “Your mindset is your life’s algorithm.”   Where your thoughts go, you go.  

Taking the cello moves me into a growth mindset and offers a litany of positive thoughts. I don’t have time to wallow in regrets.  

Which leads to another point. 

Check Yourself – do you like to wallow?

I was a big complainer and wallowed all the time in my regrets. Continuously looking backwards and wishing for a different outcome for your future keeps you from taking responsibility for your life. My constant fantasizing allowed me to escape a life I was not happy with. I may not have been solely responsible for the mess I was in; however, I was solely responsible for cleaning it up.  

Responsibility for your regrets is a big topic for another episode.  

Got something to say? Comment on the post, or send me a message – shelly@shellydrymon.com 

Until next time, stay awesome!  


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