So this past week I was contacted by a former student of mine, as well as by a long time friend who I have know since I was a kid, both struggling with the same thing and wanting to chat. Even though they have grown up generations apart, and under very different circumstances, they are similarly trying to get over, and out from under, a debilitating issue that has consumed them to the point of major concern for years…that issue is regret.
They have both led very, very difficult lives, through mostly no fault of their own, and ultimately have made bad mistakes that they couldn’t seem to reconcile or to move past until just recently. Coincidentally, they shared with me that even though it took them a long time to get to this place, they have both started to reframe their regrets, and finally look at them not as insurmountable personal failures, but as opportunities to do better in their lives, and to become better adults for the people that they know and love. All of this got me thinking about the many mistakes that I’ve made in my life…mistakes that I’m not at all proud of, and at a point in time ones that I wished that I could go back and change. But you know what, when I really think deeply about it, I come to the realization that those mistakes/regrets have actually helped to shape the person that I’ve become, and they have been the catalyst for tremendous personal growth.
The think about regrets is that if you’re not careful, they can begin take over and impact your life in very negative ways, and stop you from growing at all…they can be debilitating and all consuming, and you can spend your life beating yourself up and letting these mistakes define who you are…keeping you stuck in the past and moving nowhere. The thing that both of my friends talked about when we chatted at length last week, was the importance of how you frame the mistakes that you make in your life. They talked about how regrets can’t be things that you hide away and bury down deep, or even run away from, they have to be embraced and leveraged as opportunities to do better. It’s a difficult shift in thinking but an important one, and a shift that has helped them take control over their lives again.
They have spent the last several months facing their regrets head on, and finding ways to make it right with the people that they have hurt along the way. They know now that they can’t change what they’ve done but they can do better, and they have. I’m sharing this with you all today because it’s a powerful lesson that we all need to learn if we haven’t already, and as educators, a powerful lesson that we need to share and model for our students. As imperfect human beings we all make mistakes…lots of them, and some of them are bad. The trick is to find a way to own them, make it right with the people that we’ve wronged, and to use the lessons that mistakes always teach us to do better. It’s way too easy to have a bad mistake linger throughout our lives and impact our self worth, so finding a way to embrace it and grow from it, and ultimately move on from it is the way to keep moving successfully forward.
Anyway, both of my friends challenged me this week to think about a past mistake that I might have made, or regret that I have that is still lingering in my mind and unresolved, and to address it. Take it down from the shelf where it’s hidden away and own it and move on…so, that’s what I’m going to do, and maybe some of you can do the same if needed. Mistakes, regardless of how bad they might have been, can always be used to become better version of ourselves, it’s just a matter of reframing them in our minds. Not always as easy as it sounds I know, and sometimes it takes a long, long time but in the end it will be a freeing experience. Have a wonderful week and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets-Arthur Miller
Inspiring Videos –
TED Talk – Don’t Regret Regret
TED Talks –Learning From Failure
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