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No regrets? How to forgive yourself and learn from your past to create a brighter future

Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

~written by Paul Anka, performed by Frank Sinatra

How many times have you talked yourself out of something you truly wanted? Deep down in your gut, you felt drawn to apply for that job, ask out that person, or buy the tickets? But you didn't. Or you honestly wanted to say "no" to a person, invitation, or experience. And yet, you went along with it.

So . . . what happened? What did you tell yourself? Why?

Was what you told yourself true? Are you sure? (Do you even remember what you told yourself?)

When you look back on that moment where you ignored your gut, how do you feel today?

This is a BIG topic that I have explored for myself over the years, with my coaches’ guidance. My clients also may bring in feelings of dissatisfaction, guilt, and shame that they can trace back to a pivotal moment in their lives where they could have said "no" to something that felt wrong or they backed away from an opportunity that magnetized their entire being.

While I personally don't carry around regrets today, I didn't arrive here overnight. If you’re harboring regrets or noticing yourself repeating a pattern that does not serve you, challenge yourself to consider that you can change your mind and actions. Taking the time to analyze behaviors and patterns that don’t serve you, learning from them, and consistently making small changes moving forward can transform your regrets into opportunities, as long as you're willing to work.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

If you've been nodding along so far and want to dive into the change pool, let’s work on it! Select a past decision that didn't sit right with your gut (or heart). Over the next few days, we'll walk through ways to learn from that past moment and turn it into a gift for your present and future self.*

To illustrate these concepts, as we go along, I’ll use two distinct real-life examples. Example one involves personal relationships and recovery from alcohol and substance abuse; the second involves career dissatisfaction. (I never disclose identifiable information unless given explicit consent and may modify details to ensure anonymity.)

1. First, Select a decision that you regret or don’t want to repeat

Write about the event: What were you thinking when you made the decision? What were your options? List the “what ifs” that may haunt you. What is the change you desire?

  • Application: Recovery/romantic relationship example

In his 20s and 30s, Guy partied hard (drinking and drugging) and racked up a high number of sex partners, with little concern for his future or attention to his mental, physical, or emotional health.

He picked partners with carefree lifestyles like his. While he may have had other options,he valued fun and freedom and was so deep in his addiction that didn’t consider his future. He didn’t even think he’d live long.

Now that he’s established in sobriety, Guy feels ready to be a good partner in a relationship, yet he continues to choose partners who are active alcoholics or addicts. He has become aware of his pattern of choosing partners not aligned with his sober lifestyle and desires change so that he can be in a meaningful, healthy adult relationship.

  • Application: Career dissatisfaction example (full disclosure: this is based largely on my story)

In her final year of college, Gal was unsure of what she wanted to do and be when she graduated. Her major seemed unlikely to lead to a prosperous career, at least in the near future. She wanted to help others in her work and to be financially stable, but she didn’t spend significant time researching job options.

She went to graduate school to obtain a degree that everyone told her would serve her regardless of where her career led. She also felt reassured and pleased every time someone seemed impressed by where she would earn her degree.

During graduate school, she realized how financially prosperous she could become if she went to work for a big company, and she forgot about her original intention of serving others in favor of financial gain and pretty things.

Many years later, she wishes she had trusted her original gut and sought a job helping individuals rather than protecting big companies. She wonders what could have been if she hadn’t been swayed by money and ego. She doesn’t want to be distracted from her truest self by money or shiny things again.

_ _ _

Once you’ve written everything, take a moment to reflect on who you were then, who you are today, and how you’d like to improve. Spend 30 seconds (or more) focusing on who you’d like to be. See it, hear it, feel it.

Guided Meditation – current/future self (coming soon)

*Disclaimer: Because each person's experiences and perspectives are unique, I cannot guarantee that the framework provided in these posts will work for you. My hope is to provide ideas about how to learn from your past and create a happier present and future.

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