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While we can cherish or mourn our yesterdays, dream of or fear our tomorrows, the only time that we’re really alive is in today. And, when we are in the present moment, there is no basis for regret.

Defeating regret - that insidious destroyer of contentment – requires understanding, willingness, acceptance and relearning the child-like skill of living in the here and now. In these ways, we are able to reclaim our appreciation for life and renew our opportunity for experiencing every vibrant minute of it.

I look forward to hearing that this month’s feature – Absolutely NO Regrets - will assist you in eradicating past remorse and claiming a more satisfying present.




One commonly understood definition of ‘regret’ is feeling bad about something from the past. Perhaps a decision made in haste. An opportunity not pursued. Words spoken or not. The unwanted course of a relationship. Something not done well enough or at all. Sadness over not having avoided what now seems an unfortunate path or unnecessary pain. Yet, it is only in understanding that our life experience is about choices – and learning – that we can become more objective, knowing that each and every past decision and event was exactly what was needed to make us who we are today. Regret has no merit except to get in the way of our further evolution and promise. It is a factor to eliminate from our lives. Here are some ways we can begin to do so:

1. Reject ‘If-Only’ Thinking.
Dr. Arthur Freeman's 'Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda: Overcoming Regrets, Mistakes, and Missed Opportunities' asks who of us can claim never to have made a mistake, missed a goal, made an unfortunate choice or suffered because of another's action? The answer is: no one. Therefore, it is in our best interests to be sure that none of these occurrences immutably misshapes our lives. Rather than succumbing to regret, concentrate on unblocking any past that inhibits the pursuit of a satisfactory today. Freeman expertly posits that woulda/coulda/shoulda thinking can be unlearned and in a relatively short period of time. Much of this process involves disciplining ourselves to replace regretful thoughts with current understanding and positive redirection, setting renewed goals, focusing on and committing to action that will help us grow and learn in our chosen direction.

2. Look Back but Don't Stare.
While we recognize that hindsight is 20/20, we must also realize that having a 'no-regrets' attitude can keep us from learning from our past and tempt us to avoid taking responsibility for our ongoing actions and decisions. On the more balanced side, applying a combination of past assessment with current awareness helps us live a more valuable present. For example, it's not smart to rush into a new relationship without considering past ones - at least, to the extent of staying aware of what has prior worked and what has not. Taking a neutral inventory of our past is a very healthy practice. It helps us identify troublesome areas and assists us in putting into place remedies that will eliminate the repetition of old behaviors and patterns that have left us regret-prone.

3. Eliminate Tolerations and Annoyances.
Nothing kicks up regret and resentment quite like continuing to do things we don't want or like to do. Gradually eliminating irritations - small or large - moves us closer to our real selves and eliminates the temptation to fall into self-pity or victimhood. Rather than repeating these negative investments in the future, we can begin to establish limits and improve our boundaries. Instead of resorting to drama, overreaction or blowing matters out of proportion as a way of making people see how bad or annoying things really are, we can choose to identity and eliminate what we can't do whole-heartedly. Doing so will help mature, refresh and leave us more regret-free.

4. Take More Calculated Risks.
When we determine to fear less and dare more, we begin to experience an enlarged, more fulfilling way of life. Our potential can be more fully reached, new and thrilling facets of life are revealed. We can start moving into this phase of life by doing at least one thing each day that stretches or challenges us. Asking for more from life and reaching for it. Refusing to let fear paralyze us. While decision-making is a fundamental tool that we use in facing the opportunities, challenges and uncertainties of life, if we opt always for the safe, known course, we become cemented in the kind of sameness that easily turns into the regret of life unlived. Conversely, taking regular, calculated risks in the direction of our passions and interests keeps us growing and moving towards greater empowerment and fulfillment.

5. Cultivate Healthy Self-Talk.
Our internal talk acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy and a great deal of regret, negativity and low self-esteem is generated from the silent conversations we carry on with ourselves. Once we understand self-talk and its effects - positive or negative - we can begin to rewrite our mental scripts - eliminating those parts that create regret or negativity. The simple - by no means, easy - way to overcome negative self-talk is refuse to talk to anyone who isn't there. Knowing that for most of us this is impossible, the best next course of action is to become willing to change the attitude and perspective of defeatist self-talk. If we stay with - 'I did what I knew to be best at the time' - we will find ourselves in a much kinder, more confident and accepting frame of mind. If it can't be shut off, actively work to listen to self-talk and practice reframing any negative, regretful thoughts with more mature, accepting and self-understanding internal dialog.

6. Stop People-Pleasing.
Can regret be far behind if we continually say 'yes' when we really want to say 'no?' Hardly. People-pleasing is dangerous, self-destructive, regret-producing behavior that must be curbed. Sometimes called the 'disease to please,' this compulsion to comply can be replaced with conscious, self-caring, reasoned decisions that carefully factor into the bigger picture our own needs and desires. Otherwise, we risk heading down the dismal path that English author, Samuel Butler, so precisely described, "I believe that he was really sorry that people would not believe he was sorry that he was not more sorry."

7. Dismiss the Committee.
Exploring a variety of perspectives on issues, ideas or problems along with diverse interpretations of information gathered is a healthy process which can lead to good decision-making. However, regret and torment can easily result when we engage the chatter of the mental committee that yanks us back and forth as we go about trying to best arrange our lives. In fact, we greatly enlarge ourselves as individuals when we are disciplined to listen to just one voice at a time - whether it's our own deeply-wise intuition - or the single sound of well-chosen counsel.

8. Learn to Cope with Regret.
The experience of regret - the feeling that a road not taken might have been the better one - is unavoidable given the myriad choices of our progressive times. In fact, we're apt to find that risks not taken are a greater source of regret than mistakes or wrong turns. In either event given this reality, we can begin to accept regret and gather information and advice from it. We can learn to reframe situations - viewing them with different, more healthy perspective. We can surrender the need to be right. Remember that regret is normal and that - when dealt with honestly and appropriately - it can be a constructive force in shaping a meaningful life. Rather than living under its debilitating shadow, it is most satisfying to convert the negative energy of regret into a positive force for making peace with the past and kindly applying its lessons to the present. If, when regret hits, we begin to draw upon each and every resource that we have in order to conquer it, we will develop mental and spiritual muscle that will rescue us from the pit of remorse. We will, in fact, begin to welcome such opportunities to improve just as Tallulah Bankhead suggested, "The only thing I regret about my past life is the length of it. If I had my past life to live over again I'd make all the same mistakes - only sooner."

9. Carpe Diem.
Preoccupation with the past or future keeps us from living in the only actual moment that counts - this moment, this day. When we get entrenched in watching our dreams pass us by and thinking about what might have been, we simply reinforce that our plans will never be enacted. That we have chosen to ignore our instincts for good instead of asserting ourselves. That we've agreed to live in the painful netherworld of 'I should have worked harder' instead of 'I'm far better now.' Ultimately, that our lives will never be fulfilled. Instead, we must keep our eye on today, letting go of things that didn't go the way we had hoped or planned in favor of understanding that all is as it is intended to be. We work on developing a balanced way of thinking about past life events. We choose to live in the integrity of today - dedicated to seizing the moment with no opportunity for regret. We know that we are living our real, intended lives gratefully accepting the fact that we always have the opportunity to become more. And, accepting that same fact for all those around us. And, looking back on each day well-lived we ask and answer Marcus Annaeus Seneca, "We should every night call ourselves to an account: What infirmity have I mastered today? What passions opposed? What temptation resisted? What virtue acquired?" In other words, how well did I seize the day?



Apple Confidential:
The Rise, Fall, and Rebound of Apple Computer

Most people remember that Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were responsible for Apple Computer's garage beginning. But who recalls that there was a third founder, Ron Wayne, Steve Jobs' co-worker from Atari? On April Fools' Day 1976, the trio filed partnership papers granting 10 percent of Apple to Wayne for his role as tiebreaker, while Wozniak and Jobs split the difference. The seemingly minor decision to form a partnership, and not a corporation, would change Wayne's life.

While Wayne was designing Apple's original logo and writing product documentation, Wozniak was building the Apple I computer and Jobs was out finding customers. Jobs finally hit pay dirt: an order for 50 computers from the Byte Shop. Lacking cash to buy parts, Jobs convinced friends to loan $5,000 to Apple and haggled with suppliers for $15,000 in credit.

Wayne was worried because, in a partnership, each partner is responsible for the company's debts (executive liability is limited in a corporation). Besides, Wayne was the only one of the three with any money. Fearing financial failure, Wayne sold his interest in Apple for $800, just 12 days after the founding. Wozniak and Jobs profitably filled the Byte Shop order, and incorporated Apple within a year. To avoid legal complications, the company also bought Wayne's share of the partnership and sent him a check for almost $2,000. It was a surprise windfall to Wayne--but a pittance compared to what he could've gotten. Not including dividends, Wayne's share of Apple would've been worth over $400 million at the stock's record high price in early 2000.

Wayne isn't bitter, though, recently stating, "I've never had the slightest pangs of regret, because I made the best decision with the information available to me at the time."



My past has become my oppressor
      Oh, cruel jailer mine.
I look always backwards,
      never able to love the future,
      or the present.
I see that I have made many mistakes,
       neglecting people,
       and myself.
My prison has been built with my own hands,
      my own deeds.
My blunders have pushed me to the edge
       of life, and death.
Forgive me, my friends and enemies,
for all that I did, and all, especially,
       that I didn't do, but should have done.
Blessed is the man who can look back upon his life,
       and say that it was a good life,
       without regret.
I am not that man.
And regret feasts on me,
       and my life,
       like the vulture feasts on the discarded carcass from a lion’s kill.
And I am left to say one thing alone -
Mea Culpa.

Cayle C. Graumann




Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be
in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
Be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
And listen to others,
Even the dull and ignorant;
They too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
They are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others
You may become vain and bitter;
For always there will be greater
and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements
As well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career,
However humble; it is a real possession
In the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;
For the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to
What virtue there is;
Many persons strive for high ideals;
And everywhere life is full of heroism

Be yourself.
Especially do not feign affection.
neither be cynical about love;
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
It is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit
To shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are borne
Of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
Be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the Universe
No less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here.

And no doubt the Universe
Is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
Whatever you conceive God to be
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
In the noisy confusion of life
Keep peace with your soul.



Question:  I'm a Senior VP/Director at an international communications company and am feeling like I may have hit a career ceiling. I'm constantly told I'm a great asset to the organization, but there doesn't seem to be anywhere to go. However, I have a very senior position, title, excellent salary and good perks. I'd like more challenge and stimulation but I'm afraid I might regret leaving all this for something unknown. How do I decide?

Answer:  You are certainly not alone in this dilemma. Just as some industry experts were positing that the days of indefinitely staying with a company and moving up through the ranks were long gone, there are countless signs in the workplace indicating that - despite imminent downsizings and bankruptcies - today's employees are reluctant to leave even the worst jobs. In the first quarter of 2002, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas reported that only 14% of managers and executives said they would relocate for a new job which was the lowest rate recorded since the company had started keeping track 15 years ago. It is also a sign that "people seem less inclined to leave their personal and professional safety nets," said John A. Challenger. On a big picture level, social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff identifies the gist of the impasse, "For most of us, there's a tension between dissatisfaction and fear. On the one hand, we're not at peace, not happy with what we see in ourselves or in our lives. On the other hand, we're afraid to make a move, to leave behind what we have been."

The lure of job security with its regular paycheck, 401K and delicious perks is, typically, the biggest mental roadblock to overcome in making a decision to voluntarily change positions. This perception can be dismantled by understanding, in today's corporate environment, that job security is all but non-existent. That safety nets provide comfort for only so long but, sooner or later, wear thin. And, realizing if you rationalize staying in a position that is no longer satisfying, you will likely find other ways to express your unhappiness - all the way from no longer doing the very best job to outright self-sabotage. So, ultimately, the question you may want to ask yourself is - can you afford to take the risk of staying?

On your way to answering these questions and before deciding to leave your situation, you'll want to carefully assess the pros and cons of your current position and company. Obviously, if the pros outweigh, you'll want to consider taking risks in the direction of how you might be able to get more of what you want rather than leave. Determine if your company is just going through a rough patch or slow growth that might reverse itself and leave you room to grow. Consider all possible internal solutions that might help overcome your current boredom and move you ahead.

Thoroughly take notice of what's going on around you. Be honest in establishing if your promotions have stopped - not because of the company's structure - but because of your own limitations. Consider having a frank discussion with your management about your situation and your future promise in the organization. Broach the subject of a new position developing in the near future that would be open to you. Make obvious your interest in and dedication to the firm and reiterate what's in it for the company to keep you satisfied on the job. The reception to this kind of discussion will result in more decision-making information. If you're not hearing anything promising about new responsibilities, promotions or advancements in the organization, it's probably time to update your resume and carefully plan your exit strategy.

In other words, understand that your career development is your own responsibility. If you have run out of room to grow, you are obliged to seek your next position with a company that can more fully support your career development, providing opportunities for growth well into the future. Begin to discreetly network and get your resume into the hands of good headhunters and referring colleagues. Talk to everyone you know, confidentially, letting them know you are seeking a more challenging job. Remember, networking is one of the best ways to find and secure a new position.

The bottom line is that no matter what the unemployment figures are or how few headhunters are currently calling, staying in a dead-end job is not a healthy option. That does not mean you should resign tomorrow. It does mean doing the work on updating your résumé and circulating it confidentially. It does mean writing your ideal next job description, identifying and targeting attractive companies and beefing up your networking activities. It also means, looking for ways to restyle your current job and reach for new skills that might help to make your work more stimulating as you're executing the exit strategy. Don't let anything deter you from doing what's right for you. That's a sure road to regret. In the words of Louis E. Boone, "Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have."


©2002 by Joyce K. Reynolds. Duplication with credits only please. Click here for easy access to all books referenced. For complimentary 20-minute Coaching session e-mail or visit Click here to send this newsletter to a colleague. Executive Business Coach on Click here to Unsubscribe. Newsletter maintained by Web Factum, LLC.