To live a life without regrets doesn’t mean you never make a mistake or fail. It means that you live it to the fullest and learn from your experiences.
Edith Piaf decided to retire in 1960. A few months later, at the age of 45, she was persuaded to make a comeback by Charles Dumont and Michel Vaucaire, two young French songwriters, who had written the song “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” (No, I Regret Nothing).
At first, she refused to see them or take their song seriously.
Dumont recalls in The Daily Express, “When I started playing the piano, Piaf’s attitude changed immediately. She made me play it over and over again, maybe 5 or 6 times. She said that it was magnificent, wonderful. That it was made for her.”
Today, her song is still very powerful and considered a mantra for all those women over 50 who want to break free from their past, are ready to let go of a lifetime of emotional baggage and are happy to start again.
What does it mean to have regrets?
Many of us often end up living according to society’s, our parents’ or our partner’s wishes and hopes. We tend to hold back, settle with a life that doesn’t fully satisfy and are too afraid to break free from some learned norms. We are too scared to change jobs, start studying or chase our dreams and passions regretting late all those things that we didn’t do.
A study found that women often regret not pushing themselves further educationally and a large proportion are disappointed that they didn’t travel enough before embarking on their careers, having better care of their relationships, being braver, or simply prioritising things better.
According to Daniel Pink, the author of five New York Times bestsellers, including his latest, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward: “Everybody has regrets. They’re a fundamental part of our lives. And if we reckon with them in fresh and imaginative ways, we can enlist our regrets to make smarter decisions, perform better at work and school, and deepen our sense of meaning and purpose“.
The only way to move forward is to live boldly while daring to be our authentic selves.
Getting over regrets
A typical feature of regret is self-blame over making the ‘wrong’ choice, whether it was doing something that you now believe you shouldn’t have done, or not doing something that you now think you should have.
However, when harnessed skillfully, regrets can even increase the likelihood of psychological growth. But first, it’s important starting prioritize what we really need to make this one life worth living and then let go of the past.
“Regret can prompt you to reflect on your behaviour, to learn which sorts of behaviour work well and which don’t, and thus to improve yourself in the long run. The emotional pang of regret can help you to understand that you ought to make a change – and then push you to follow through“, says Jelena Kecmanovic a clinical psychologist and the founding director of the Arlington/DC Behavior Therapy Institute in the Washington, DC area.
The key to effectively dealing with situations in which we feel regret is to not let it define us and not obsess about past missteps. We need to move forward in our life, think before we act so we can avoid mistakes before they happen, and finally get rid of the negative thoughts—the could haves, might haves, and should haves.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to live a life without regrets. At 50, we still have plenty of time and we can avoid repeating mistakes by first stopping blaming other people and taking ownership of our lives.
When a leap of faith is the best way forward
Once we have started to accept our feelings of regret, made amends (if pertinent), and soothed ourselves, then we are ready to explore some helpful reframing of the position in which we find ourselves now.
When Maria S., 54, from Los Angeles, walked away from her first marriage, she moved to New York with no guarantees that she’d be able to support herself. Jessica, P. 67, from York, gave up a comfortable life in pursuit of her greatest passion – the arts. She was given no assurances that she’d be successful.
And when Barbara R., 74, from Milan, went back to school to study business, no one promised her she’d be able to make a name for herself in a male-dominated field.
They leapt anyway.
What did they have in common? Apart from being CruncyTales’ readers, they decided to live an authentic, purposeful life. They become more self-aware and in tune with themselves to learn what will make them truly happy.
Stop waiting for the perfect time. Regrets suck. But today, right now, you can do something about your choices to limit your regrets in future. There is never a perfect time for you to take action. There is never a perfect time for you to launch that project, spend time with your family, write a book, change your habit, or embrace a new habit. Once you acknowledge this, you will get a lot more meaningful work done every day.