‘Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention …’~Frank Sinatra
Good old Frank, he was proud to have done it his way, informing the world he’d lived ” … a life that’s full …“.
How many of us can say we allow ourselves to feel and believe such words?
It’s more likely that you find yourself frequently looking back in time, wondering what would’ve happened in your life had you made a different decision, or taken another direction, rather than the one/s you took?
Similar to the movie ‘Sliding Doors’, maybe you wonder what would’ve happened had you boarded another metaphorical train on that day, at that time, in your past?
I’ve recently heard stories from friends, relations and clients about instances where they wish they’d made alternative choices in their lives. They’re feeling desperate at times believing life would be so much better, and they’d be so much happier, had they chosen an alternative. It seems this hinges mainly around letting go of someone, or something, and/or missing out on the accumulation of wealth.
I can certainly empathise with this challenge.
There’s a pivotal point in my life I occasionally return to, with a tinge of regret, when I sold a house I’d aspired to own for many years – and two years later the property doubled in value. Yes, there was a man involved and I was distracted by my ego and past ‘neediness’ to believe we had a future together, even though on reflection the signs were all there to the contrary (that retro-scope is an amazing tool isn’t it?). We were going to travel to New Zealand together (a place I’d dreamed of living for as long as I could remember), though I recall him challenging me mockingly that he didn’t believe I’d ever leave the town I grew up in, or the organisation I’d worked in for the previous 14 years.
I was also lured by the short-term gain of cash in the bank (it’s a very attractive prospect when you’ve struggled financially for many years as a single parent!), and with it the ability to take time off to travel, as my daughters were grown and heading on their own new adventures. By the time I realised maybe it hadn’t been the best choice, I’d been brave enough to travel to New Zealand on my own, spent the equity I’d had from the sale (in amazing experiences rather than things), and subsequently returned to England with no house, no job, no car, no relationship and no money.
That was over twelve years ago, and since then I’ve been fortunate to find ways to buy and sell three houses, hold three senior posts in the midwifery profession in UK and NZ, release my NHS pension and invest a lump sum in NZ, meet my soul mate and remarry (for the third time – this time for life!), and am now living our dream on the waterways of England aboard a narrowboat.
Lots of threes there did you notice? Interestingly, in numerology, the number three is associated with growth.
Despite this, I do ponder intermittently what my life could look like had I not made that choice. I believe I would now be mortgage free with a house worth around £250,000, about to retire from a senior role in the same place I’d worked for 26 years, and looking forward to a healthy lump sum and pension. My children would have had a base to return to in times of struggle.
However, I’m also convinced it would’ve meant I’d have ‘settled’ for a life of mediocrity, safeness and sameness, with little risk or challenge to stimulate my soul – and then it’s very likely I would’ve always looked back and wondered ‘what if I’d sold my house, given up my job, been open to change, took a risk, etc,etc.’
Lifetime learnings so far
“Through it all, when there was doubt …” I’ve learned:
- People come into our lives – for a reason, a season or a lifetime
- It’s up to us to embrace what they’re there to teach us and then reflect on those lessons
- The decisions we make are based on the evidence we have available to us at that time – and we generally make the best choice from that information
- To listen to my intuition more – it’s generally right
- I can look at the gifts that each experience has brought me, so that next time I face something similar I have more knowledge of the options and outcomes
- I believe we’re happiest when we embrace change and take risks, when we follow our hearts and can be open to adventure
- It’s highly unlikely I’d want to end my life thinking ‘thank goodness I didn’t move away from my comfort zone and kept myself safe and risk free’.
Many clients I’ve had the honour of coaching, have similar stories – so what’s the answer?
Is there really an answer?
As we live longer, there will be more times that we’ve made choices and changes. Some will work out how we imagined, and others will alter the course of our lives irretrievably for better or worse.
A new perspective
Alternatively, how can we look at things from a new perspective?
Here’s three (!) possibilities to ponder:
- People come into our lives for a reason – if I hadn’t sold my house and gone to New Zealand the first time, I wouldn’t have had the incredible opportunities I’ve had since then, and met some amazing people who’ve become life-long friends – and I wouldn’t have met my gorgeous husband.
- Life is not just a process of the accumulation of wealth – money is important, granted, it’s difficult to live without it. But if all we do is focus on being safe and secure, what possibilities are we denying ourselves?
- Being grateful for what we DO have, rather than always wishing we had more – whatever choices and changes you’ve made in your life, you’ve made for reasons that resonated with you at that time. Be compassionate with yourself and know that you’re always doing your best, with the information you have.
At our wedding in 2009, on the roof of our narrowboat Northern Pride, my elderly father took me to one side and asked me how I knew so many people – and that was just friends and family in UK! One of my gifts from the paths I’ve taken has been knowing some incredible people.
There’s a quote I love that’s pertinent here, and really resonates with me:
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” ~William G.T. Shed
Do feel free to comment on any choices, changes or decisions you’ve made that you may be feeling regret about. Will you listen to your inner critic, or your inner coach?
Then, consider how you can change your perspective on that if you’re still unhappy – or contact me to see if coaching could support you further …