Regret is like a one-legged duck trying to swim across a pond. In other words…regret is a big fat waste of time!
Some people mourn the past for so long that they miss the good stuff that could be right up ahead of them and within their reach. They waste time wallowing in self-pity and blame their bad choices for their here and now.
I recently spoke with a coaching client who is struggling with letting go of her past poor choices and looking to the future with hope and expectation.
To her, there are two categories to place people in: The lucky category and the unlucky category.
People in the “lucky” category have a good life because they made good choices and people in the “unlucky” category have a not-so-good life because they made poor choices.
It’s not that simple. Let me explain…
Let’s Make a Deal
Do you remember the game show Let’s Make a Deal? At the end of the show contestants were in the Big Deal of the Day and got to “pick a door”. Behind one door sat a shiny car, behind another door sat a set of luggage and a trip and behind the last door sat a giant cut out check for $1.99. If you picked the door with the car or the trip you went home happy and if you picked the door with the check you went home sad (insert cheesy game show “wah, wah, wah” here).
Many people buy into the “game show mentality” that there is a right and wrong choice to be made in every situation we’re in. A good result means they made the right choice and a bad result means that they made a wrong choice.
You can also think of it as a “fork in the road mentality”…if you go the wrong way and get lost then your lot in life will be filled with doom, gloom, and despair OR if you go the right way and make it to your destination then your life will be filled with happiness, joy, and success and fulfillment.
Life is not always cut and dried and orderly. Life is not always easy and things don’t always turn out the way we’d like. Our mistakes and wrong choices don’t define us.
Chin Up, There’s Good News!
There’s good news…for every choice we make we create an opportunity to:
- amass experiences
- make memories (some good-some bad)
- meet people
- gather information
- learn lessons
- analyze situations
- reflect and grow
Refuse to live in “would have-could have-should have land.” Choose to live in the here and now with an eye to the future.
If You Can Get Excited About the Future, the Past Won’t Matter
It can be hard to believe that good things are on the horizon for you when you’ve made choices you’re not happy with. I have countless things I’ve done or said in my past that make me cringe with regret. Situations I put myself in in college, decisions I made with my career, ways I’ve parented and many more.
Being optimistic about your future can be like a carrot on a stick enticing you with hope for better things to come.
Yes, there will always be things we’ll regret, but they are overshadowed by the many, many awesome things that are yet to come for you.
Tips to Help You Get Excited About the Future
- Forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook. Everyone has made mistakes. You’re fooling yourself if you believe otherwise. The world is made up of people who have hit the reset button numerous times.
- Dream. Dwell in the possibility of greater things to come. What is life without dreams. Really! Not just dreams, but dreams that have the possibility of coming true! I love this quote by the author of The Alchemist Paulo Coelho “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” Is it a conversation you’re dying to have? Is it a new career path you’d like to take. Is it a trip you’ve always wanted to take? The sky is the limit. Dream.
- Try New Things. Life is not meant to be ho-hum and routine. Step out of bounds, color outside the lines, and travel outside of your comfort zone. You never know what you may find that interests you, puts you in situations where you will meet new people, or allows you to bring value to others.
- Make a Bucket List. Put your dream locations and experiences down on paper so they become more real and not just a thought. This also helps you never again forget what you really want. Your bucket list will get your creative juices flowing and create excitement in your life.
- Create a Vision Board. This is very similar to a bucket list, but it’s what its name implies…it’s a visual reminder of your dreams. I created a vision board when I first began my business almost 10 years ago. While you can create a vision board digitally, I decided to make one the good old fashioned way by using foam board, scissors, glue, and pictures from magazines. Whichever way you decide to do yours, the idea is to add photos to a board/screen that embody the dreams and goals you want to accomplish in the future. My confidence has been bolstered through the years when I glance at the things on the board that I’ve been able to check off my dream/goal list.
- Be on the lookout for simple wonders. Don’t short change the little things in life that can get you excited about the future. Watching your children make choices. Knowing that something you’ve said or done has brought value to someone.
- Avoid naysayers. Stay away from toxic sandpaper people…those people who rub you the wrong way and squelch your happiness and joy. Keep your eyes ahead and don’t listen to their negativity.
- Know who you are. Recognize your strengths, your unique talents and gifts and your purpose in life. You are not a mistake, you are not on this earth to take up space. You are exceptional and bound for greatness. Never forget this.
Friend, don’t look back. You’re not going that way. And don’t let yesterday take up too much of today. Look ahead at what’s all to come. Some things may be good and some things may be “not-so-good”, but you can be sure it will be better than wallowing in your past.
“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” Anonymous