Learning Through Regret


“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”

– Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

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This is the time of year when we begin to think back upon the past twelve months and take stock of where we are today. Some will resolve to make personal changes in their lives on New Year’s Day. Unfortunately, these resolutions usually fail within the first two weeks of January. Some take another shot at change when Lent rolls around, but most still fail to make the changes permanent.

Our employers also take this time to evaluate our performance and challenge us to new goals in the coming year.I have not experienced this personally, but some employers will take a mid-year look at their employees performance to make sure they’re on the right track. Maybe we should do that in our lives, also. Take a pause sometime mid-year and see if we’re living the life we want to be living. If our choices are bearing fruit.

As I look back on 2013 and beyond, I’m mostly filled with regret. Despite the “you only live once” (YOLO) movement that’s popular today, we all have some regret. There are choices that we wished we would have made and choices that we wished we had not made. Fortunately, we can learn more from our failures than our victories. That is, if we’re willing to look within ourselves and evaluate where and how we failed. After which, we can make the resolve to force a correction, or to make better choices, in days to come.

My failure has more to do with a misdirected focus that, while myopic in nature, led me to make decisions that I thought were in the best interest of my family. Our society teaches that we must work to provide, even if working takes from the precious family time that we’re working for. The push to resist contentment in life and to keep pursuing that next social and financial step on the ladder is very strong and the tide can be overwhelming.

In the last ten years, I’ve worked longer hours and more days to save money to buy a house, a new car, new electronic gadgets for the kids, to improve our lifestyle in a material way while sacrificing the most important currency in our lives. I have chased promotions, jobs with higher earning potential and responsibility. I thought this path would better serve my family and give me a new level of respectability.

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If the stock market has taught us anything it’s that you can run out of money, but there will be an opportunity to replace and earn more. You can’t replace time, you can’t make up time. The referee can’t request for more time to be put on the game clock.

In the five stages of grief, regret falls within Bargaining, “a normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability”, we torture ourselves with thoughts of what if____? This is unhealthy and will only continue the spiral of grief. By spinning it on a positive note, we can learn from the regret and apply this new knowledge to what we do now. We have the power to change our future in the present.

“Time and tide waits for no man.” It is uncertain who may receive credit for this quote, but its timeless message rings true in my heart and mind. I find myself, at the end of 2013, richer than I started the year. Not in a finiancial sense, but perhaps in wisdom. I know what I’ve lost, and tragically, I know that I can’t reclaim it. There are no refunds for time lost. I can, however, resolve to make a change, in the spirit of the season, to spend more my time on this Earth focused on what matters most and less time on the illusion of material and financial happiness. I will try to remember and practice long past January, and even through the Lenten season, and if my current employer does not comply, then it will be time to find another job.

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2 comments

  1. Anonymous · · Reply

    My heart goes out to you and your family Skip.

    1. Thank you. And thank you for reading.

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