A Different Way to Think About Regret
“Whenever I’m working on these exercises around my plan and my vision, I get really excited but a moment later I get so frustrated”
One of my clients shared these words in one of our sessions as we were going through her ‘homework’. We’ve been working on helping her find clarity and direction for what she wants to do and who she wants to be as she’s approaching a new season in her life.
“Tell me more,” I asked her.
“I feel like I’ve been wasting years of my life. I’m really excited about this new direction but the anger and regret of not taking action sooner are diluting my excitement and distracting me”
We’ve all been there. Feeling frustrated, angry, annoyed and full of regret about staying too long in a situation that hasn’t been right for us.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately… Is there such a thing as wasting time?
I’ve certainly been the person who says “I don’t have any regrets. Everything happens for a reason” and while I believe there is some truth in that, these days I’m more honest with myself about the things I wish I would have done differently.
The difference is, I no longer assign a negative meaning to it.
What if we could hold both truths – that it’s possible to waste time and at the same time trust that it’s all part of the process? What if we could embrace regret rather than resist it?
With my client, and often is the case, it wasn’t wasting time that made her feel frustrated, it was her thinking around wasting time.
“What would it look like if you embraced the time wasted?” I asked her.
“It would look like focusing my energy and time on what’s next instead of dwelling in the past”, she replied.
Focusing on the path not taken prevents us from exploring the one in front of us.
“Wonderful. What else might be true here? What might be important about acknowledging the time wasted?”
“Not to waste another precious moment,” she said.
Here’s the thing – When we’re busy being frustrated about wasting time, or on the contrary, when we’re trying to spiritually bypass it, we are missing a really important message. Because the voice that says “Why haven’t I done this earlier?” “Why have I stayed?” “Why have I made this decision?” is bearing an important message. It’s telling us something about the preciousness of life. It’s calling us to go in the direction of our longings. In truth, we can never know whether we’ve made the right decision or not, or whether we’ve wasted our time or not, because we can't know what would have happened otherwise. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is to discern and ditch the part of the thought that paralyses you, that keeps you dwelling in the past and holds you back from exploring new possibilities. And listen to the part of the thought that is telling you something about your longings or vision for your life that’s waiting for you. Rooting for you, Love, Naama