The three word contractions above often precede expressions of regret: “I coulda gotten an A in that course if I had completed all of the homework assignments”; “I woulda been promoted, if I took the time to train my replacement”; “I shoulda pursued my dream and not let the fear of failure hold me back”.
When Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, he had an ongoing segment called “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” featuring three guest comedians who offered hilarious after-the-fact advice in response to absolutely absurd, but real-life events:
Notwithstanding this comedic take, let’s consider a more sobering view and analyze the painful emotion of regret, but evaluate it the context of its onset being predicated on action and inaction.
Regret stemming from an action you had taken is perfectly understandable in instances where others were harmed as a result. This is a common occurrence and part of the human experience — for we are flawed creatures . . . in that we ALL make mistakes.
In such situations, feelings of remorse are natural, and indicative of an empathetic character, whereby you feel, or otherwise relate to the pain you caused someone else. This emotion is not a pleasant one, but it is helpful in that it will likely keep you from doing it again and hopefully motivate you to “make amends” in some way for those you harmed. This blog post is NOT about regrets borne from these actions because they typically translate into subsequent undertakings that prove helpful to all parties involved. As the saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.“
But what about actions YOU have taken; however the ONLY one getting “the short end of the stick” is YOU? These are instances where you consciously made a decision to do something, but things didn’t pan out as you had hoped or otherwise anticipated they would. You should NOT look back at these experiences with regret, especially if you then find yourself clutching a travel bag of regrets filled with “I wish I never did this” and “I should have never done that” — move on and leave those regrets behind.
Examples? A common one is entering into a relationship, and your heart is ultimately broken, such that you find yourself saying “I wish I never met you !” Another one is entrusting a friend to do something for you (e.g., care for your dog “Fido”, while on vacation), or NOT do something (e.g., share something you confided a long time ago); however upon arriving home, you’re aghast to learn Fido ran away and there’s a sex tape of you and an ex now viral on social networks. 🙂 A less common example is choosing to leave the safety of a joyless job that pays the bills, to pursue your passion, but ends up not working out for you.
In these instances, I submit you should NEVER regret them, but LEARN from them and recognize who you are at any point in time is the sum product of your past experiences . . . be they good or bad, scary or peaceful, exciting or pedestrian, happy or sad — and be sure to love yourself for exactly who you are . . . after all there is no one else like YOU. The following poetic aphorism offers a sagacious response.
Now THIS is the area you want to avoid at all costs, for more often than not, it gets you a one-way ticket on a train heading South on the life-track where the only stops are “No-wheres-ville”, “Dysfunction Junction” and “Loser-Town”. In other words, this is where regret is unavoidable and its after-effects are typically abysmal, agonizing and enduring . . . in other words, a living hell. And to affix blame, you will need only look in the mirror.
What you should do RIGHT NOW is start doing the things YOU KNOW you’ve been putting off for TOO LONG, which YOU KNOW in your heart of hearts will MEANINGFULLY change your life (and the lives of your loved ones) for the better.
You do NOT want to find yourself filled with regret saying:
If I had only . . .
If I . . .
All friends are gone-my heart it burns like fire
When the night comes falling, falling from the sky
I was so wrong-how could I loose my desire
How many times can we say goodbye
Love is a sacrifice
You have to read between the lies
If I’ll never see the sun again
If I’ll never have your helping hand
If I’ll never see a children smile
My world is lost
If we don’t try
I’m so alone-i cannot stand it forever
Sometimes I feel-like I can’t stand the pain
All that I want-we can’t do it together
Only with you-I feel like I’m born again
No matter what I do
I do it baby just for you
Here are some other relevant entertaining videos on the notion of regret: