“What’s your biggest regret, and why?” …that old chestnut.
Don’t you just love this question. It might be getting to know someone new, a first date, a small group leadership discussion, pushing boundaries, breaking barriers, getting uncomfortable. It may be well intentioned, freely offered or just down-right nosey. Whatever the case, someone’s biggest regret is usually pretty personal, sitting right at the core of their closely guarded being.
This week, this question or the essence there of, has popped up in a couple of different conversations. It’s not a question I, personally, feel comfortable answering to anyone. My biggest regret was upsetting, uncomfortable, distressing even. Driving home one afternoon, I started trying to justify my regret to myself, as I would if telling someone else. Then it hit me;
Regret is a present feeling, I hold about something that happened in the past.
You can’t “make” a regret. You can “make” a mistake, but not a regret. Regret is how you feel about something that has happened. It is a present feeling, you hold about something in the past. I read a blog post by Melissa Ambrosini this morning, and there was a quote she had that stopped me. You know when you’ve heard it 1000 times, but someone words it differently and BOOM! the sun comes out and sends your crazy world dancing!
When you are present, nothing else exists. There’s no past holding you back, no future to worry about, just the infinite potential of the moment.
“When you are present, nothing else exists.” So if I’m living here, right now, in the present, regret doesn’t exist. You can’t regret the future. Regret only exists when you live in the past. It is an emotion you feel, when you reflect on something negative from the past. Something that there is absolutely no way possible, to take back or change. A mistake you accept, that you can look back and learn from, you can try to make amends or fix it. But regret is the holding onto of something you.cannot.change.
Our present feelings and emotions, help to shape and dictate our future.
By holding onto regrets, we are allowing the past to come with us into our future. We are holding onto negative fears and emotions that drive us. Your past helps shape you, yes. But it does not define who you are. You are not your past. You are exactly who you are in this present moment, right now. It’s the lessons we learn and the way we choose move forward from our mistakes that defines us. To forgive yourself, learn from and accept that you can’t change the past, gives you peace in the present.
By living in the past, we choose to entertain regret. Regret is a feeling and emotion, that serves us in absolutely no positive or beneficial way. Holding onto regret, is like not forgiving someone – yourself. Like slowly drinking poison. Forgive yourself and let go! “When you forgive, you in no way change the past. But you sure do change the future.” – Bernard Meltzer