An Excerpt from No Regrets
The following is an excerpt from chapter one of No Regrets. You can either read straight through from
the beginning or click on the chapter section to read the excerpt of greatest interest to you. No
Regrets is a practical guide that offers profound insights into the nature of regrets and the process of
Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” begins with an intriguing question set up by the memorable phrase,
“Two roads diverged in a wood….” Which road should the author take, the poem asks. Frost chose “the one less
traveled by” and that choice, he writes, “made all the difference.” But what if he hadn’t taken the road less
traveled by? What if he had chosen the road more traveled by? That choice, too, would have “made all the
difference.” But what was the “difference” between the two roads, between the one he took and the one he didn’t
take? Ah, the answer to that question is one that neither he nor we will ever know. Because it was the road not
The road not taken is the source of all regrets. It seduces us with its fantasies of what might have been, limitless
possibilities that would have unfolded for us “if only….” When we are unhappy, we explore these roads not taken
through rich and varied fantasies that create a magic world of satisfaction and fulfillment, however briefly. In our
imaginings, the road we regretted taking “made all the difference” in our lives, and, in its place, we create the road
not taken longingly and lovingly in our “if only...” dreams. The road not taken beckons to us with its false
promises, poisoning the road we took or were forced to take and the present in which we live and have our being.
Uncertainty. That’s the problem we face when two roads diverge in a wood, when life presents us with choices.
We never know where our choice will take us, the road it will lead us down. Sometimes, we think we know, but
we never really know. We can only guess. Even so, we work hard to create new forks in the roads of life, new
choices that we call opportunities. People do it all the time. Take a guy named Don, for example….
Don endured substantial sacrifices to pay for college and earn a degree in computer science. He worked two jobs,
ate all his meals at home, and gave up the chance of any real social life. He put up with the long hours and the
exhausting schedule because he wanted a great job that would pay well and afford him the status he wanted. When
Don graduated, he chose a position in a lucrative field with a demanding workload that deprived him of time with
his new wife and, later, with his children. Even as he worked late, night after night, he wondered about the
wisdom of it, but he kept telling himself he was providing the American dream for his family. He kept following
the new road he had created for himself, the road to success that began with the college degree.
Life is a series of many forks and many roads. Some of these forks force us to choose between paths that are
dramatically different, whether we realize it or not. Perhaps we have to choose between the job of our dreams and
the city of our dreams. Or we have to decide whether to accept or reject a marriage proposal or to make such a
proposal. Other forks in the road are more subtle, often appearing quite similar, at least at the time we pick them.
We choose between two movies, for example, but the movie we chose inspires us to launch a new career.
Forks of our creation offer us different roads between which we are happy to choose. But sometimes a fork in the
road is not our choice. It is forced upon us. We don’t want the fork or the choice it compels us to make. We have
a heart attack, for example, or develop cancer. We face difficult medical decisions we had not anticipated. We
don't like any of the options, but we have to choose among them. If we don’t choose, one will be forced upon us,
which is still a choice, though a choice made by indecision and inaction.
Sometimes there is no fork at all in the road—only an abrupt turn that leads to a new road and a dramatic change
of direction in our fortunes and our lives—a road not of our choosing or our liking that we are forced to tread.
Casey’s sister and brother-in-law died suddenly in a car accident, leaving her with two young nieces to raise.
Casey was single, with a glamorous, exciting, and demanding life that left no time for anything more. Yet, now she
faced the prospect of raising two little girls. She felt woefully unprepared to be their mother, and dreaded the
thought of taking them. But there was no one else to take the children, except a stranger—and this she couldn’t
bear. The sudden turn in her life was shocking and unwelcome, bringing deep sadness, great fear, and sweeping
change. It was an unwanted turn in the road. That it later worked out well for her and the children, bring great
rewards to both, did not seem possible at the time.
But a less unwelcome turn in the road is also possible. Charlie had all but given up hope of finding a lover when he
chanced upon a woman giving a cooking demonstration at Marshall Field department store. It was ridiculous, but
they fell into conversation over the right way to prepare an omelet. The next thing he knew, he had bought an
omelet pan, and then their conversation turned to other dishes and then to other possibilities. He started dating her,
and they married. In such positive, but unexpected twists, we move from what appeared to be a dead end to a
broad highway and an entirely new destination.
Whatever the nature of the fork—whether the new road is chosen by us or not, whether it represents a subtle shift
or a major change in destination—the road not taken will always be a mystery to us. We cannot know where it
might have led us or to what people or events it might have taken us, for good or for ill. But we can imagine….
Ah, can we imagine….
In thinking back on the forks of our lives, some of us give the road not taken or the road not offered little thought.
Usually, we have no reason to do otherwise. It was a small fork, and we simply chose one direction over the
other. Or one direction over the other was presented to us, and we went on our way, unmindful or uncaring of the
change in destiny the fork represented.
But some forks are much more significant. We may have spent days pondering the opportunities or the risks such
choices offered, trying to decide which road to take. We asked ourselves big questions: Should I get engaged or
not, accept that job offer or settle for what I have, stay in my apartment or move to another city? Which choice
would make me happier? What should I do? We may have doubted our final choice, even as we made it, hoping
only for the best, lost in the uncertainty that characterizes life. Our restricted knowledge of the future deprives us
of the certainty that retrospection guarantees. Looking back, it is easy to see where we went “wrong” in some of
the choices we made in our loves, careers, investments, and lives. In retrospect, almost any decision is one that
we can later regret to some degree. Because all we have with which to compare that decision is the mystery of
what might have been and the fantasy we hold of it.
Perhaps our regret stems not from our own action or inaction, but from something someone else did to us—or
didn’t do for us. Or from some event over which we had no control. A tree falls on our car. The house is flooded.
A fire burns up the garage and the two cars inside it. We say to ourselves, “If only I had left earlier….” “Why
didn’t I buy flood insurance when I could have….?” “I should have checked the wiring.”
Whatever the cause of the problem, we begin to regret, and our regretting builds until it spirals out of control. We
want so much for it to be different, for it to be the way we had hoped or dreamed that we cannot accept what has
happened as the way it is. We jump into anger, plunge into sadness, or sink into self-pity. We whine in hopes that
someone or something will change it, make it better, or take it away. We complain as if we were children hoping
our parents will fix it if only we cry enough. Instead of being empowered, we are victimized by the thought of our
regrets. Our anger and despair grow, and the conviction develops that we have messed up our lives beyond
correction or that life has messed us up beyond redemption. Nothing, we tell ourselves, can help us now. We are
sinking in the quicksand of regret.
Regretting is the act of revisiting past decisions or events, comparing them to what might have been, and wishing
they had been different. In doing so, we blame ourselves or others that they are not, and give our past decisions or
events the power to hurt us in the present. Regretting is a trip to the past for which we pay by stealing from the
present. Regretting takes us from today to yesterday, from what is to what was. It carries us from the present,
where we are actors with the power to change our lives, into the past, where we are powerless victims of what
might have been.
Why is it that we regret? Regrets arise from unfulfilled expectations, from shattered hopes and lost dreams, from
failures and tragedies, mistakes and misjudgments. They arise naturally out of life’s events and are woven into the
fabric of the human experience. Regrets are to be expected as part of being alive. They are inevitable. But regrets
do not have to be burdensome. Ultimately, they do not have to be “regrettable.” They can be accepted as part of
the unique life we have led. All of us have practice in letting go of regrets. We do it many times a week. But these
are small regrets and easy to manage. “I shouldn’t have ordered dessert.” “How could he have forgotten my
birthday?” “I shouldn’t have bought that sweater.” These little regrets bother us only briefly, and we let them go.
But some regrets are bigger, more urgent, and not so easy to release. The stakes were much higher than a few
added calories or a forgotten birthday, and the consequences much more severe. Unlike our small regrets, they are
difficult to release. These are the ones that entrap us. We become obsessed with the repercussions of our past
actions, and with the past and present sadness of their consequences. We board the merry-go-round of regrets to
ride in endless circles of, “If only I had…,” “If only I hadn’t….”
The older we are, the more potential regrets we have with which to deal. There were more roads not taken, more
years to appreciate what has happened to us, and less time to “correct” our mistakes. We will experience many
regrets in a lifetime, always with the same two options: Hold onto them or let them go. That choice is always ours.
Many of us let go of our regrets. Some of us do not.
Regrets come in many forms, but they can be grouped into seven categories, depending upon the cause of the
regret. Some regrets develop from multiple causes and so fall into more than one category. These distinctions are
useful, because they organize regrets. As you read through the categories, match them in your mind to your own
regrets. Later, you will match them on paper. This process of categorizing regrets is part of a larger process of
systematic analysis through which you will gain control over your regrets and reduce their power to hurt you.
The seven categories of regret are:
1. Acts you committed (but wished you hadn’t)
2. Acts you didn’t commit (but wish you had)
3. Acts others committed (that you wish they hadn’t)
4. Acts others didn’t commit (that you wish they had)
5. Acts of fate or circumstances
6. Inevitable losses (that you regret)
7. Comparisons (that lead you to regret)
Let’s take a look at each of these categories and see what they are like.
1. Acts You Committed (But Wish You Hadn’t)
Regrets in this category arise from actions that you took in relation to yourself or to others that you wish you
hadn’t taken. “I shouldn’t have said that” is a common such regret. Usually the misspoken words don’t produce
long-term effects, except in the case of public figures or in families when the words created a life-long rift. Many
actions in this regret category, however, do produce long-term effects, and are complex and difficult to let go.
One woman regrets her abortion, for example, while another regrets her illegitimate child. A young man squanders
his inheritance on cocaine. Another accidentally causes the death of a friend, while another kills on purpose. A
woman steals from her company and gets caught or tells a lie that leads to tragic consequences. A man diagnosed
with lung cancer stops smoking, but it’s too late. All these examples are regrets of commission, actions that
people committed that they wish they hadn’t.
2. Acts You Did Not Commit (But Wish You Had)
These regrets arise from an action that you did not take in relation to yourself or others that you wish you had
taken. “I should have called on her birthday” is a regret at the minor end of this spectrum. More serious regrets in
this category stem from failures to act that resulted in grave consequences or lost dreams. You failed to nurture
your child who ended up in serious trouble, or you lost an elderly parent to a sudden heart attack, leaving you with
too many things to say that hadn't been said, and too many opportunities to visit that you had ignored. Perhaps
you had a passion for writing that you squelched to succeed in other fields, never pursuing it despite an obvious
talent and a great dream of becoming a novelist.
Missed opportunities are common in this category of regret. Bob didn’t buy Microsoft in the 1980’s when he
predicted its future rise and had plenty of money to buy it. He played it safe instead, investing in blue chips and
watching his portfolio under perform the market even as he spent its principal. Now, all he can think about is how
rich he would have been today, “if only…” “How could I have done that,” he continually asks himself. “How
could I have been so stupid!”
Julie struggles in a menial job, barely able to make ends meet, because she has no skills and no education beyond
high school. She didn’t go to college even though her aunt offered to pay for it. She wanted to play instead and
see the world, hang out with musicians, drift with the wind, and avoid the tedious life of her parents, with their
boring factory jobs. Somehow the months turned into years, and the men who shared her life grew less reliable,
and the easy jobs less attractive. Now Julie regrets her lack of education. It would all be different, she tells herself,
if only she hadn’t turned down her aunt’s offer. If only she had gone to college. If only…. If only….
These are regrets of omission.
3. Acts Others Committed (That You Wish They Hadn’t)
Regrets in this category arise from actions that someone else took in relation to you. In such regrets, you may
have played a big role, a minor role, or no role at all in creating them, but their consequences were painful. A cruel
comment made about you is an example from the minor end of the spectrum. The severe end is much darker. You
were defrauded by your best friend and lost everything. Your spouse cheated on you and then asked for a divorce,
ending the marriage and your dreams for a stable home that would nurture your children. Someone is raped. Your
best friend commits suicide. You lose your dream job in a power struggle that is not of your doing. Whether the
action of others was deliberate or inadvertent, they still hurt. These regrets are caused by acts of commission by
4. Acts Others Didn’t Commit (That You Wish They Had)
Regrets in this category arise from actions that others did not take in relation to you that you believe they should
have taken. These regrets often involve someone you know—a member of your family, a friend, or a co-worker,
but not always. Sometimes, these actions of omission by others can also be categorized as their opposite: acts of
commission. For example, if your boss doesn’t give you the raise you think you deserved, you see it as an act of
omission (he didn’t give you the raise). Yet you could also view it as an act of commission (he denied you the
raise). Whether the regret is classified as an act of commission or reversed and classified as an act of omission is
not important. Use whichever category works better for the particular regret.
5. Acts of Fate or Circumstances
These regrets arise as the result of fate or life circumstances over which you had no control. A devastating illness,
for example, a physical handicap about which nothing can be done, a childhood of poverty, or the early death of a
parent are all circumstances beyond the control of people who are nonetheless deeply affected by them. Accidents
also fall into this category. A loved one dies in a plane crash, for example, or is killed in a drive-by shooting. These
are acts of fate or circumstances over which you have no control.
6. Inevitable Losses
Regrets in this category arise from the inevitable losses that life brings. These regrets are different from regrets
born of events or circumstances perceived as negative, because they are shared by everyone who lives. They
include losses associated with growing older and with change. Inevitable losses characterize every age: childhood,
adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, and old age. As they grow older, adolescents, for example, must give
up the illusion of omnipotentiality (their ability to become anything in life), not to mention their conviction of
invulnerability to harm, and their belief in their own immortality. Quite a price to pay for young adulthood. If they
are unwilling to pay this price, however, they are doomed to unhappiness. The loss of omnipotentiality,
invulnerability to harm, and immortality on earth are inevitable. The compensating gifts are not. The loss of
youthful beauty, energy, or dexterity, and the decline in physical ability or stamina are, likewise, merely the
inevitable losses of staying alive.
Some people find ways to compensate for these losses and so let go of their regrets. For example, when Robert
and Marlene’s twin girls graduated from high school and left for college, their parents suffered an inevitable loss.
It was very painful, but it was also necessary if their daughters were to become independent and reap the rewards
that college offered. The girls’ increasing maturity was also a welcome change for their parents. Having their
children leave home was an inevitable loss of getting older. Had the parents moaned the loss of their children to
college without searching for the compensating gifts, they would have had much to regret. In the same way,
people entering old age may not like the loss of youthful energy, but the compensating gifts are the greater
wisdom and sense of competence that growing older brings.
In order to get something new, you generally have to give up something old. Even through the new may be better
than the old, most people still do not like having to give it up. They prefer to have both. But life doesn’t work that
way. Where inevitable losses are concerned, the old and the new are mutually exclusive, and giving up is
inevitable. It is this giving up that makes change painful—even when the change brings significant rewards. Giving
up—even to get—is experienced as a loss, a kind of death that has to be grieved, accepted, and let go. Great gains
often require great losses. You do not have to like this principle, but it governs your life nonetheless.
Toward the end of life, of course, inevitable losses grow more severe, and the gifts more spiritual and sometimes
more difficult to accept and understand. Even so, regretting, as opposed to accepting, is unproductive. It is easier
to accept the things we like than the things we don’t like, but acceptance is fundamentally a spiritual and
psychological process that allows us to transcend events in our environment. Acceptance is an state we create
within ourselves that allows us to make peace with external factors, regardless of whether or not we like them.
Inevitable losses also include losses that arise from favorable events. For example, a young man accepted a
promotion that he had worked hard to earn, but it required him to move from a town where he had many friends
to a city where he had no friends. He liked the job, but he didn’t like the city. His was a regret born of good
fortune. He like what he had gained, but he regretted what he had to lose to get it. In fact, he resented that he had
to make the trade. His focus shifted to the inevitable losses from the gain that came with it, and he grew bitter,
resentful, and unhappy about the trade he had to made to get what he wanted.
America is a society of comparisons, and so it is a society that loves its lists and rankings. “The Ten Best Dressed
Women,” “The Top Ten Teams,” “The 25 Best Colleges,” “The 50 Most Eligible Bachelors in America,” “The 100
Best Companies to Work For,” “The 500 Wealthiest People,” and “The Top 10 Reasons For….” compare the
“best” to all the rest. In our highly competitive society, rankings are important, which is why these lists fascinate
us. Do you agree that Citizen Cane is the best motion picture ever made (traditionally number one) or do you
prefer Casablanca (traditionally number two)? Do you agree with the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and
Sciences when it honors the best actor, actress, director, and motion picture with the annual Oscars?
When it comes to our own life, we also maintain lists, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. In these
private lists, we rank ourselves in relation to those we know and to those we don’t know but have heard or read
about. We even create lists in which we rank ourselves in comparison to the selves we had hoped to be, but never
quite achieved or even came close to achieving, but that still remain as ideals for us. Where do you stand in the
secret rankings of this internal list? Are you at the top of your list, at the bottom, or somewhere in the middle?
These internalized rankings are a potent source of regrets. In fact, they can be among the most painful and
debilitating of all regrets. By comparing where you are to where you think you ought to be in relation to your
idealized self or in relation to others, you create painful “should haves.” “Should haves” arise when you compare
where and what you are to what you “should have been,” to what you “should have done,” to what you “should
have known,” or to what you “should have acquired.” Regret-producing comparisons come from:
- Incomplete comparisons that you make between yourself and people you know or have read about. The
comparisons are incomplete because you cannot possibly know what other people’s lives are really like and
the extent to which you are “better” or “worse off” than they.
- Comparisons of your lives and your accomplishments to the impossible standards and expectations you
have set for yourself or to the impossible standards and expectations of other people or even of society.
- Comparisons of your present life to the dreams you once had for yourself or to the potential you once
possessed, but that has not been realized and now may will be.
Comparisons such as these create regrets when you believe them and refuse to let them go.
We all experience regrets. They are a natural consequence of being alive. Any action we take can conceivably
produce a regret. Likewise, any action we don’t take can produce a regret. So there is no escape from potential
regrets, and regrets themselves are not the problem. The problem is what we do with the regrets. It’s easy to
dismiss minor regrets, and we have a lot of practice doing that. “I wish I had gone to the movies after all,” we say
to yourself and let this little regret go.
Other regrets are more significant, falling into the “lessons learned” category, but we still let them go. These
regrets arise from our own acts of commission or omission and even from those of others. With these regrets,
we say to yourself, “I wish I hadn’t done that, but I have learned my lesson. I won’t do it again.” Or “He was a
terrible boss. I’ll never behave like that.” We accept experience as the best teacher and move on. Sometimes, our
“failures” with or without their lessons, later work for the best, as, for example, when someone says, “I felt like
hell when I was fired, but getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
When we consider our mistakes objectively and ponder their lessons, we grow in knowledge and, sometimes,
even wisdom. If we reject the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, we do not grow and may repeat them.
Many of us can admit, “I’ve learned as much from what I’ve done wrong as from what I’ve done right.” And so
we take the lesson in stride and move on with our lives, continuing to meet the present in all its possibilities.
But some regrets are not easily abandoned. “Why didn’t I…,” “Why didn’t I....?” becomes a troubling refrain. Yet
even when we continually revisit a regret, we are likely to come to terms with it eventually, accept its lessons, and
accommodate yourself to the reality of what happened. We let time heal us and chalk the regret up to experience.
And we let it go.
But not always. When the price we paid for the regret seems too high to accept, we balk at releasing it. We
conclude that whatever we have learned or could have learned wasn’t enough. Whatever fork in the road we took
or were forced down, we didn’t like and resented having to take. The consequences devastated us, and we
continue to regret them. We revisit the fork and the choices we made or that were forced upon us. Instead of
reviewing our regrets to mine their lessons, we return to them over and over to bemoan their consequences. We
sink into self-pity and inaction, trapped in an ugly past that we refuse to leave. Or we re-create our regrets,
changing only the outcome, still trying to make things different, still trying to have things the way we want them.
Regrets pose a problem for us when we intensely or repeatedly revisit them, wishing things had been different,
and blaming yourself or others that they are not. To harbor a regret means to continue to experience its emotions
and suffer from them long after it was appropriate to have worked through them and let them go. When we
harbor a regret, we make it an agonizing destination for our reveries and fantasies. We return to it repeatedly in
terrible anger or deep grief or recall it periodically with an intense pain that threatens our sense of wholeness,
challenges our worth as a person, and sours our chance for happiness. In such instances, the regret is no longer a
regret. It has become an intolerable burden.
One way to harbor a regret is to ruminate on it. When applied to cows, ruminate means to chew its cud. When
applied to humans, to ruminate is to ponder the same issue at length, to continue, in a sense, to chew it over and
over. Rumination is the psychological term for a repetitive thought pattern. But we do not have to ruminate on our
regrets to harbor them. We can still be tormented by them whenever their memory is triggered even if we do not
continually revisit them.
A harbored regret assumes a special status in our lives and serves up a special form of suffering. Harbored regrets
carry lies that plunge us into unhappiness: We are incapable of success, unworthy of friendship, or guilty beyond
forgiveness. Or they make us angry, defensive, and over-reactive to the actions or comments of others. We find
yourself unwilling to forgive, consumed with spasms of hatred or thoughts of revenge that cast their shadows
over days that might otherwise be festive and light. Burdensome regrets are dark wellsprings of discontent and
blame that restrict our possibilities, curtail our pleasures, and hamper our loving.
We all know people whom we admire, who have successful lives, whose company we enjoy and yet who feel
diminished because of their regrets. We see them as admirable, even enviable people. We would like to be like
them yourself. How can they not see how unimportant their real or imagined mistakes are in the context of their
whole lives? How can they give so much of themselves now and yet live with so much pain and so little pleasure
because of things that happened long ago? As mystified as we might be about them, we have no such mystery
about yourself. They have no reason to regret, we tell yourself, in view of their lives—but we do.
Harbored regrets shift our attention from the reality of what life is to the fantasy of what life might have been—a
comparison that cannot be made without feelings of sorrow. If we did not pay such a high price for regrets, we
might indulge them. But unless our regrets are minor enough to be dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders or a
nod to experience, we cannot afford to keep them. And we don’t have to keep them. We can let go them go. But
many of us don’t. Why not? If the burden of harbored regrets is so heavy, why do we continue to harbor them?
There are two main reasons, both of which are dealt with in this book. The first reason we hold onto our regrets
is that we don’t know how to let them go. We don’t know how to begin the process of eliminating these
burdensome memories that have nonetheless become familiar companions and part of our lives. We have been told
by others to “get over” our regrets, and we have even demanded the same thing of yourself. But how? How are
we to do it? How are we to make the journey of letting go of them without a map or a guidebook or a plan that
lays out the steps to take? Such a demand is asking too much of most of us. Without guidance or a structured
means of letting go, we can’t find our way to freedom from regretting.
There is a second reason some of us hold onto our regrets. The regrets are supported by unrealistic thought
patterns that we have never examined and have never countered. Perfectionism is one such pattern that creates
many regrets. Taking on undeserved guilt is another. Sometimes regrets are an excuse for inaction, as when we
say that it’s too late to change from a hated career to something we really like, and so we don’t even try. The idea
that harboring regrets brings its own rewards is a painful realization to make. “Of course, I would let go of my
regrets if I could,” we tell yourself, balking at the idea that we are rewarded for holding onto them. Once we
know how to let them go, however, we have no reason to continue harboring regrets unless we are “rewarded”
for holding onto them. But overcoming these “rewards” of unrealistic thought patterns is also part of letting go of
our regrets, and we’ll explore that in Step Three (“Changing Toxic Thought Patterns”).
When I was deep into my regrets and the shambles they had created in parts of my life, it seemed inconceivable
to me that I could let them go. That belief was fueled, in part, by a misunderstanding of what it meant to let go of
a regret. Letting go does not mean denying the regret or what happened that created it. Nor does it mean
minimizing the serious effects of the regret on me or others: the pain, the harm, and the fear it caused. Rather, it
means coming to terms with the actions and circumstances that created the regret, releasing the painful emotions
associated with it, and ending the distortions that the regret was creating in the present.
Although I acknowledged the regret and the harm it caused, I came to recognize that I no longer had to be a
prisoner to it. I could leave the past where my regret still held sway, and step into the present where I could
change myself and the circumstances of my life. In the process, I let go of the feelings of anger, shame, guilt,
and sadness that surrounded my regrets and that had infected my life. That’s what healing is.
Healing is possible in letting go of regrets, even promised, because the spiritual and psychological tools used in
conjunction with the Ten Steps are designed to bring about such healing. And they work. They will lead you to a
new understanding of your regrets and to a new perspective on your past that will free you from those regrets.
Ultimately, the Ten Steps will lead you to forgiveness—forgiveness of others and forgiveness of yourself. But
that's not until the Eighth and Ninth Step, so if it seems impossible at this time, don’t worry about it. It will
happen, nonetheless. When it does, you will recognize it as a moment of true healing.
When you have harbored regrets for a long time, when you re-live them intensely, or when you revisit them
frequently, you may find it frightening to contemplate letting them go. Regrets can become such a part of your
life that you don’t quite know what it would be like to live without them. You may even fear that their absence
would leave an emotional hole that would be difficult to fill. Yet, as you work the steps, you will discover that
letting go has many rewards, rewards that are far greater than any imagined benefits of holding on. Some of these
- Escape from the domination that regrets exercise over your life, freeing your thoughts and emotions for
more productive purposes.
- Release from the pain, anger, shame, and guilt that your regrets bring.
- Recognition of the lessons and gifts of your regrets and how you can use them for your own benefit and
for the benefit of others.
- A new perspective on your unique life experience and on your ability to be of service to other people.
- Greater compassion for those who struggle and have struggled, empathy with those who suffer and have
suffered, and love for those who are failing and have failed.
- A new sense of being comfortable in the world and of being a worthy part of the world.
These rewards seem remote when you are mired in the pain of your regrets, but they are real nonetheless. They
come with the healing of regrets. Healing is possible because you are more capable of growth and deserving of
grace than you realize, and because you have at your disposal powerful and transforming steps and spiritual and
psychological tools. Your feelings of helplessness in dealing with your regrets will be converted into a mastery of
those regrets, bringing joy, satisfaction, and happiness in greater measures than you can presently imagine.
Something remarkable happens when you invoke spiritual power and apply proven psychological techniques to
letting go of your regrets. When your purpose is to heal those regrets and live a more rewarding and productive
life, you are aided in many unforeseen ways. You are introduced to greater forces—forces that will carry you to
the realm of the miraculous and to the edge of the impossible. You will dare to renew our hopes for a richer life
and to reclaim longed-for goals that your regrets have denied you. The love affair with life you had once imagined
reopens, and you are introduced to new and startling possibilities that sweep you from the confines of the past to
the lush potential of the present.
Letting Go of Regret allows you to work the Ten Steps at your own pace. There is no set timetable and no ideal
timetable, no right timetable or wrong timetable. There is only your timetable. Proceed in a dedicated manner as
steadily as possible and avoid procrastinating whenever possible. Some procrastination is inevitable, but
acceptable as long as progress is continuing.
Each of us is different, and each of us has different regrets. For some of us, letting go can be accomplished
relatively quickly. An “ah-ha” moment takes place, then another and another, and the pieces of the puzzle fall
swiftly together. The way out of our regrets is clear, and our release from regrets can be accomplished with
some ease and speed. For other people, the process of letting go will require more effort and will take longer, but
it will bring the same result. With either timetable, our release from burdensome regrets will occur. In fact, it is
virtually assured for those who commit themselves to the ten-step program described in this book and who apply
its tools and principles.
The timetable for completing the steps and letting go of your regrets will be determined primarily by the priority
you place on it in your life. If it is a high priority, you will start now and stay with it until you have made peace
with the past that holds you. We inevitably spend time on what is important to us. How important is it to you to
let go of your regrets?
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No Regrets: A Ten-Step Program for Living in the
Present and Leaving the Past Behind by Hamilton Beazley