The face of the elderly woman on my TV screen is moving in painful contortions as she repeats a single phrase over and over, “If only…if only…if only…” It is gut-wrenching to watch. She is a prisoner to the regrets of her childhood past, which she spent as an orphan. Her life is little more than a cautionary tale for us: left unchecked, regret will embitter our hearts and choke the joy out of our lives completely.
But you can transform regret into a powerful tool for good. In order to do that, you’ve got to become a judo master in the way you handle it. Take the energy of regret when it comes rushing into your head and hurtle it into the future. Simply ask, “If I continue on my current path in life without any changes, what regrets will I have in my last days?”
If you allow that question to percolate deeply, it is bound to change how and why you work today. For some people, answering the question will help them choose to work fewer hours. For others it will have the opposite effect, it will motivate them to work much harder. It might make you more willing to take risks with your career. It might give you the courage to forgive someone that brutally put you down. It might empower you to confront someone that has been taking advantage of you. For sure it will make lasting impacts on anyone who is willing to ask it and then let it plumb their soul.
This last week, "Duck", a college friend of mine from 30 years ago died with no warning, leaving behind a wife, children and many friends to stumble through the sudden loss. He never reached the age when most people struggle with accumulated regrets. And it has reminded me that there is no better time than today to perform judo on my own potential regrets, allowing them to be a powerful catalyst for change in my life today.
“For us to get real results in the real world, we must be in touch with what is, not what we wish things were or think things should be or are led by others to believe they are. The only thing that is going to be real in the end is what is.” - Dr. Henry Cloud
|L to R: Mike "Duck" Taylor, me, my wife Kathi and Michael Hairston after a road race in Mulvane, Kansas in 1982.|
To quote Neil Young, "Long may you run."