Use regret as fuel for positive change
The other day as I was driving in my car listening to a song from my childhood I had a memory of being 12 and singing along to the radio in full voice. I was transported back and remembered the feeling of having my whole life ahead of me and how exciting and scary that felt. As I listened to the rest of the song at the stoplight, I found myself wistfully thinking back to that time in my life and I felt a twinge of something we all encounter from time to time, regret.
Regret is a funny thing when you think about it. You look back at the past (sometimes with rose-colored glasses, sometimes with chagrin) and think about things you wish you had “done better” or “not at all.” But if you think about it from a different perspective, feeling regret can be a real gift in your life.
Wait a minute Laura, you might be saying at this juncture, I’m 100 percent sure I don’t want to feel regret and I don’t know anyone who would consider that a good thing!
Well, Dear Reader, I beg to differ. I believe that you can actually use regret as fuel to make positive changes in your life in the present.
As a life coach, it’s my job to sort through my clients’ beliefs and thought patterns to get to the nitty-gritty of what’s driving their behavior and help them challenge stories that hold them back. Regret is an excellent indicator of an area where a person has an unfulfilled dream or scary story that can be rooted out and vanquished.
Let me show you what I mean. We’ll use the example of me in my car the other day. When I was 12, I felt a ton of creative freedom around music. I was writing and singing songs, singing in the shower, along with the radio and (much to my friends’ annoyance) on the school bus. I was joyfully and confidently singing my way through life. Although in my adult life I still sing and write songs, over the past year I have been preoccupied with other things and as a result have not been making time to pick up my guitar and compose. In short, I’ve been going hungry in the creativity department. That little episode of regret in the car was an alarm bell sent by my creative self to my logic-driven brain.
There are several ways that I can use this alarm to my advantage. First, I can acknowledge that music matters to me. If it weren’t something important, I wouldn’t have felt anything other than nostalgia at the memory of making music. I would have carried on with my day without any change in my emotional state. But since I felt a sense of regret, I can conclude that music matters in my life today and that I’m missing it.
Noticing that music is important to me is the recipe to finding ways to make positive changes now. Now I can see that I need to add more music into my life. Prioritizing time for myself to express creatively during the week and playing guitar for even a few minutes a day will help me feel more fulfilled. Now, all because of that regret, I have a game plan for adding more music (which is really more joy) into my life today.
Now you try! Take a moment to think about the choices you made (or didn’t make) that led to your lack of success in achieving a particular goal or dream. Think about what you were missing at that time that you might have now or that you could develop in your life today. Perhaps you were painfully shy in high school when they were casting for the play. You regret not trying out and dream about what might have happened if you had. Fast forward to today. You’re 40. You’ve had more time on this planet, more life experiences, more setbacks, and more successes. You know who you are and you aren’t afraid to speak up to snarky teenagers. You’ve grown. Maybe you could sign up for a beginning acting class. Maybe you could learn how to use your iPhone camera and make your own YouTube comedy channel entitled “Mom’s Gone Mad.” The idea here is that if you’re feeling regret, it’s a clue to you that what you’re regretting means something. Be creative about how you can add some of that into your life today (no matter how tiny the step) and I bet you’ll start moving toward a life with more joy, fun, and creativity than you thought was possible.
Do you have a topic you’d like me to weigh in on? Email me at email@example.com and maybe my next article will be just for you!
The Good Life runs on the second Sunday of the month. Laura Klain is a certified life coach and the owner of Bud to Blossom Life Design LLC, which is located at 92 Main St., Suite 104, Nashua. She has been helping people build better relationships, change careers, increase creativity and successfully navigate life’s curveballs for the last six years. You can learn more about her at: www.budtoblossom.net. and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/BudtoBlossom/.