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Turn Regrets Into Resolutions

We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.  T. S. Eliot

We can not start a new year and just hope that it will be different. We have to know it for the first time. We have to think about where we are and where we came from. Who we are and who we want to be. We must own our actions, inactions and our reactions. We must take responsibility for all of our achievements both regretted and celebrated. All are worthy of our attention to gain insight into what we need to do.

A big mistake is to forget the things you regret from the previous year. We all all want to avoid regrets, but stuff happens or didn't happen. So as we make our annual promises to excercise more and eat less, let's also take a quick inventory of what we regretted from 2011. Regrets are opportunities for reflection and enlightenment.  Tattoo-Regret

Regrets are sins of commission and omission. They are an essential component of our humanity. If we do not have the emotional and intellectual capacity to think about what we did or did not do, then we are socio-paths with no compass. We regret because we feel.  To regret is human.

The most helpful way to experience regret is to feel it deeply, get over it quickly and move on and use it to push you to new behaviors that are going to be helpful.       Dr. Neal Roese, Northwestern University

Always fascinated by people in job interviews who have no regrets, no failures, no weaknesses. It's not as suspicious, as it is telling of an emptiness. Our lives are filled with the good and the regretted. The only way we can improve is to be aware of our shortcomings ans our regrets. Awareness is always the first step. 

In a meta-analysis of many regret studies conducted by Neal Roese of Northwestern, here's what he found we regret most:

Roese2005_Fig1

These studies were biased towards younger persons and students. Earlier this year, Roese surveyed adults from across the country and got these results

Sources_of_regret
Romance, marriage and life partners topped the list, followed by family relationships and then education and career again.

What will I do differently in 2012 to push these regrets off my list? We know that doing the exact same thing you did last year is insufficient to address these areas of your life. Whichever you feel are important to you, need to go on the top of your 2012 resolutions list.

Relationships, education and career will always dominate your list. Relationships take great effort and time as they evolve and can not be neglected. Same for education and career. The world is changing and so must you, to stay fresh and sharp. These areas require your constant attention to continuously sustain them and improve. Ignore them at your peril. These regrets can turn into tumors if you give up. There are many sources of regret that have to be forgotten. Buyer's remorse, for example, is not worth your time--move on! And as you can see, financial decisions are not as important. But your primary human romantic and familial relationships are key to your life satisfaction. As well as your life's work and career.

Here's the intangible. Regrets of omission and inaction may be the most daunting because you do not know what those choices would have triggered. We know that each action generates a cascade of events and actions that can change your life. So hesitate less and go for it more. Take a chance. Feel the fear and be more decisive. Be first to connect and reconnect with people you care about or don't know yet. Mentor others. "Next time" rarely happens. Let life take you to uncharted waters and new territories. The only thing you may lose ----is a regret!

We need to learn to love the flawed imperfect things we create and forgive ourselves for creating them.  Regret does not remind us that we did badly, it reminds us that we know we can do better. --Kathryn Shulz

Happy New Year and thanks for reading. John

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