Regret Has A Dark Side
Here Are Three Ways To Overcome It In 2021
Well now. Didn’t see that coming! Regrettable. Tragic. Heartbreaking. Painful. Difficult.
It’s like the cosmos did a once-in-a-century hit-and-run and there’s no going back to the way things were.
Whether we like it or not, we’re all in some kind of in-between space and dealing with some form of loss.
It’s been a universal public stress test and a very uncomfortable patience-builder.
I firmly believe that we have been changed in profound ways by this year, and probably will continue to be.
Our hopes rise and fall like a yo-yo in tandem with the daily tally of new infections, hospitalizations, deaths, jobless claims, government relief action and inaction, the latest news on therapeutics and vaccines, school opening and closings, and so much more.
Too soon to breathe a collective sigh of relief?
As much as I’d like for that to happen, I think we’re still in for more uncertainty at least for a while longer.
You see, I’m writing as much to myself as anyone else.
I resolved a long time ago to live life with as few regrets as possible.
How’s that going?
Pretty much OK, but I’ve got to admit, the impact of the past year has brought this area back into sharp focus.
Regret comes up a lot. It is a recurring conversation theme with many of my colleagues, clients, friends, and acquaintances.
No one seems immune. It doesn’t matter if you’re an up and coming professional or a hardworking barista, sooner or later you encounter the effects of cumulative loss.
Personal freedoms lost. Opportunities lost. Health or income losses. Time lost. Pandemic fatigue is real and I think we’re all allowed the occasional crank-out or bout of cynicism.
Even the indomitable Michelle Obama is admitting to low-grade depression due to quarantine.
The long term effects of regret (a form of grieving) are well documented. Not only is it detrimental to our mental health, but it also has physiological effects as well.
The litany of nasty side effects can include sleeplessness, heart disease, diabetes, addiction, and eating disorders.
How To Face Regrets Head On
Practice Intentional Change Adaptation
Innumerable changes have been foisted on us and there are numerous rationales we feed ourselves that make us resistant to change.
How many times have we needed to “pivot” in 2020? (plans changed, course reversed, gears shifted, etc.)
We all know people who haven’t been able to change with the times. Sooner or later they slide into irrelevance.
Our brains are just wired to prefer the familiar.
The good news here is that we can be intentional about metabolizing change. How we feel about it is less relevant than trying to understand why the change is needed, then make the necessary personal or professional adjustments.
Another piece of good news is the more you engage with change the easier it becomes. Keeping a clear sense of personal mission and an end goal in mind makes moving through changes easier.
Fighting the irrelevance that comes with not changing helps keep things on track in the face of discouragement, delays, and setbacks.
Have A Self-Care Routine That Works
Well-being is a key aspect of living a truly successful, satisfying life even through challenging times. What does that actually mean?
It means tapping into a daily, weekly, and monthly rhythm that supports your health and well-being.
It should, at the bare minimum, include getting enough sleep, fresh air, recreation, and a balanced allocation of time and activity in the seven areas of optimal living (Body, Mind, Spirit, Work, Love, Play, Money)
Body – Our energy levels, diet, stamina and strength, sufficient sleep.
Mind – The ability to focus and learn new things.
Spirit- Care for that intangible life force at the core of our existence.
Work- Meaningful and financially rewarding career, business, or profession.
Love- The quality of our relationships.
Money- How we utilize finances.
Play – Our recreational options.
All of these areas are vital to our existence. If even one of these areas is short-changed, or out of whack, personal well-being gets messed up pretty quickly.
Lead With Gratitude
This actually works if you dig in and do it.
There’s plenty of scientific data to back it up.
In his book, A Simple Act of Gratitude author John Kralik set out to write 365 thank-you notes over the course of a year.
Initially, he did it as a way to feel less hopeless during a time when he wasn’t sure his life was worth living. But with each letter he wrote and tracked, he was able to literally count his blessings.
At the same time, the act of sitting down each day with pen and paper helped to retrain his brain to focus more on the good things in life and less on the bad.
But Kralik didn’t just write letters. He also made a practice of answering simple “how-are-you?” with things he was grateful for rather than complaints.
“Gratitude gives us a break from regret and despair”
Personally, I’ve found that gratitude gets me out of my own self-absorbed head, and soon it becomes just plain fun.
It is so much more helpful than focussing on all the ways life is unjust or imperfect.
Does that mean I’m turning a blind eye to poverty, racism, social justice, climate change, and other important issues?
Color me weird, but gratitude regularly reminds me of the important things I’m standing for, fighting for, and want to see change.
It also is a great way to sustain and build relationships. Relationships are necessary for any good fight. We can’t be in this alone. Telling people that we value them and their contributions is the very least we can do.
For me, giving thanks each day has made truly tough times more bearable. For that, I’m thankful.
Thanks also for the important work you do!
Until next time,
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