Regrets. Recriminations. Opportunities lost. Dwelling on these can ruin businesses and lives. Yet some of us inadvertently devote far too much time, energy and emotion to wishing we had done certain things differently or searching for ways to undo mistakes that cannot be rectified.
Perhaps we're upset over something like not entering into a partnership that turned out to be lucrative for a colleague who saw the promise it held and jumped on it. Or maybe it's something personal like not spending more time with a parent or grandparent who has now passed away.
We act like everything is OK as we set up appointments, close deals, do installs, trade notes with colleagues at industry events, do laundry, read to our children or plan our next vacation, but in the back of our minds lurk negative feelings about unresolved failings from the past.
Is this any way to live? We wouldn't be fully human, of course, if we were impassive about the consequences of our missteps, large and small. Our conscience serves a purpose in giving us feedback and guiding us on a decent, productive path.
But it's important to remember the past is in the past. It's over. Kaput. We can't do yesterday over. We can't even do the last minute over. Sometimes we can catch errors in time - for example, we can proofread a contract before taking it to our new merchant customer and fix typos we find.
Or we can apologize if we've been insensitive to someone and get the relationship back on track before any lasting damage is done.
However, sometimes we cannot do this sort of remediation. And when this is the case, we need to accept it, forgive ourselves, if needed, and move on. Move on.
And when we do face forward, one thing we can do to reduce the likelihood of future regrets is commit ourselves to always doing our best. Each of us knows when we truly are putting in our best effort and when we are not. It's often in the little things where this plays out:
Sometimes seemingly small decisions have huge repercussions. A woman recently gave the eulogy for a treasured colleague who died unexpectedly in his sleep. She spoke of how much her friend had meant to her and recalled how she'd had lunch with him shortly before he died.
She said the lunch was scheduled for a busy Saturday during the holiday season. She was behind on her shopping and had two events to attend that evening. She almost called to cancel the date.
She was sure her friend would understand. But then she thought better of it. She knew he was looking forward to seeing her, and she stuck with the plan. Imagine how she'd have felt if she had cancelled.
Each hour, we make myriad decisions about what we will do and how we'll go about it. And when we are vigilant about doing our best, opportunities arise unexpectedly and regrets become more and more a thing of the past.
For when we truly do our best, we can be proud, even when we make mistakes; we know we couldn't have done any better at the time, and we learned something in the process. Is that any way to live? You bet.
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