"Regrets, I've had a few - but then again, too few to mention" - so said the late and great Frank Sinatra.
Whenever I hear 'My Way', I always think that Frank was either extremely fortunate or lying to us.
Very often you hear people say "No Regrets" after something has gone wrong. There seems to be a perception amongst many, that if you regret the way something turned out, you are showing a sign of weakness or failure - and heaven forbid we ever let ourselves show vulnerability to fellow human beings.
I began thinking about this in depth a few weeks ago, and wanted to do a spot survey with some of my friends. I asked everyone I encountered last week, what their biggest regret was (that they'd feel comfortable sharing). I was amazed at how many people told me that they don't have any regrets in life.
This exercise showed me that a lot of people have too much pride and are scared to show vulnerability by admitting certain decisions from the past have set them back.
Below, however, are some excerpts from the brave few that put it all out there:
Tanya 27 says:
"Probably the biggest happened when I was 20. I got married because there was a lot of pressure from my Greek family. I wish that I stuck to my guns and didn't do it. I wish I had lived for myself instead of for them. I feel that by making that choice I obviously married someone I shouldn't have".
Daniel 30 says:
"My biggest regret would be waiting until I was 25 to get professional help with some personal issues that were preventing me from feeling truly happy. I wish I'd done it earlier - I'd have saved a lot of heart ache".
Clare 25 says:
"My biggest regret is not leaving an unhealthy relationship when I should have. The relief I felt when it finally ended was amazing compared to the feelings of stagnating comfort I was experiencing in keeping the familiarity alive. For some reason, it was easier and more comfortable to stay than to leave. The regret and experience taught me to not be afraid of short term pain for long term gain".
Max 36 says:
"I regret not leaving my home town the day I graduated. I wasted a lot of time being somewhere I didn't really want to be".
Ruth 43 says:
"I regret having an abortion. I was in an abusive relationship, and I fell pregnant. The man at the time wouldn't talk to me for 3 days when he heard I was pregnant. Back then it seemed like there was no way I could bring this child into the world. There were a number of risks (both medical and emotional) in having the baby. But I look back now and I regret it, as maybe I could have done it - maybe there could have been a way".
So there you have it, some powerful examples of people with the courage to acknowledge they have regrets about the way certain things have panned out in their life. I can guarantee you that every single one of these people have learnt from these regrets and would adjust their actions if presented with similar situations in the future.
On a personal note, I have several regrets about things that have occurred in my life. I try my best not to dwell on the negatives and rather ensure I too learn from each one.
For example when I was at university I contemplated going on exchange to the USA for a semester. Fear got the better of me and I decided to remain at home, giving up a once in a lifetime opportunity. I watched several of my friends courageously go abroad while I remained in my comfort zone. I witnessed almost all of them come back and express that they'd had the most positive life changing experience.
How did I learn from it?
Well a few years later, I quit my job and decided to travel around Europe alone. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and as a result made some lifelong friends from all corners of the globe. I also had the opportunity to visit some beautiful parts of our world that I'd always wanted to see. While I could never get the exchange opportunity back, I didn't let fear get the better of me in a similar scenario later in life.
I also have some regrets about the way some of my previous romantic relationships have played out. It may have been staying in some too long, or for others it may have been failing to strike while the iron was hot - and losing out on a great opportunity. If similar scenarios present themselves in the future, some of the regrets from the past will serve as a reminder of what I need to do differently.
The bottom line is, it's OK to have regrets. We are human, we have flaws and we are all vulnerable.
Perfection is an illusion.
If we run out of time to correct things we are currently experiencing, then our regrets should be the catalyst to make things right next time.