As another year comes to a close, how are your head and heart feeling as you reflect back on 2018? What words come to mind as you think about 2018? Happiness? Sadness? Gratefulness? Joy? Indifference? Exhaustion? Regret? Or are you too busy right now to even sit and think about it (let alone read a blog post about it!) because you are preparing and planning for 2019 full steam ahead?
It is interesting to me how often the word “regret” comes up in the therapy room. I have historically viewed this word as meaning something you wish you would have done differently and that you feel awful about. Regret feels like a sad, heavy, irreparable situation and word, full of guilt and doom. A simpler, maybe easier to grasp definition of regret could be, “things you wish you had done, not done, or done differently.” (source: super wise person in my life). There are so many opinions and quotes about the topic of regret – “Live with no regrets!,” “A life of regret is a life wasted!” “No regrets – just love!” But are those sayings even realistic, or more importantly, responsible?
I guess the real and responsible questions to tackle around regrets are: One – What do we do with our regrets? and, Two – what possible purpose might they serve us?
Some possible positive purposes of regrets:
- Motivate us to change a behavior we wish to change
- Encourage us to embark on a challenge we may not otherwise consider
- Help us push through fears that may be holding us back
Some possible negative purposes of regrets:
- Keep us stuck in the past – a close relative of depression
- Keep us in a place of being unnecessarily hard on ourselves
- Hold us back from dreaming about our future
There is no simple regret formula or solution. We are all going to regret what we feel we need to, but my hope and challenge is that we can all learn to make peace with our regrets – NOT in a sweep them under the “feelings rug” fashion – but rather, acknowledge the regrets and the feelings that go with them, find meaning for their purpose in your life, learn from them, and GROW from them. Sure, not every type of regret fits neatly into any kind of box, but open the lid of yours, explore it, and hang out with it for a little while to find out what it may be able to teach you.
Here is my biggest regret of 2018: I regret that I worked too much, to the point of exhaustion at times, which left little time or energy for the people I love and care about. I don’t want my loved ones to have my leftovers anymore, even though they are the ones who give me the most grace in this world. I don’t want to engage with those I care most about in a way that makes them feel like I’m “squeezing them in.” (yes, that’s been said to me before, by a very loving friend). So what will I be doing differently? I’m cutting back my hours people, and I’ve hired two more therapists to join Brave Soul Counseling! We now have a robust team of four (check out their bios on the “About” tab of the website) to help meet the needs of the community and surrounding areas and I am feeling grateful and excited about the new (much slower) pace of life I’m about to embark on in 2019! Cheers & see you then!
“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”
Henry David Thoreau