Monday, March 25, 2013

I have often read that we, as live-ers of life, should have no regrets. That we should, in some sense of the word, forget about the finer details of our past and instead be grateful for the opportunities and the gifts that have been bestowed upon us through the process of living. That we should embrace all that we are, for better or for worse, because of what we have been through and the choices we have made.

And to a certain degree, I agree with this. I agree that it behooves us to spend too much time in our past, whether we are fretting over things that we have done, or worrying about that which we have left undone. It does us no good to berate ourselves for our mistakes or relive days gone by, wishing that we had done things differently. After all, what does this accomplish? Precious little, indeed.

Even so, I have to admit that I do have regrets. I have done things that I am not proud of and over-looked things that I should have been more mindful about. I have been reckless at times, selfish, and even hurtful. As I look back on the twenty-nine years of my life, I see with unmistakable clarity that I have consciously and unconsciously made poor choices. Choices that have been foolish, short-sighted, and negatively impactful. And, these things are uncomfortable to think about. They are difficult to speak of. And they are nothing short of humbling.

Yet, even as I think about the regrets that I do have, and I reflect on where I was at in my life when I made those choices, I cannot help but to ask, “Is it really so bad to admit that we have regrets? Is it so bad to look back on the decisions that we have made and wish that we had done things differently? Is it so bad to look behind ourselves every now and then and realize that we could have done better? ” I must say that I think not.

I say that I do not think it is so bad to have regrets because regrets really are a part of life. Regrets, in essence, are nothing short of lessons that we have learned as we journey through life. To feel regretful is not to say that we are bad. On the contrary, to feel regretful is to say that we now see things differently than we had before or to acknowledge that we are no longer where we once were. It is to recognize that something was to be learned, and that we have changed or evolved because of our experiences. It is to agree that hindsight is indeed twenty-twenty.

So, when you find yourself tempted to deny ever having regrets, rethink what that word really means to you. Remember that it is a rare soul that truly has no regrets, and that there is no shame in using the feeling of regret to propel us forward as we learn from our misgivings.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Look on the Bright Side

I once read that some of the most valuable lessons we learn in life are taught to us by difficult people.    You know the type of people I am referring to.  People that seem to embody cynicism, judgment, and pessimism.  Those that take delight in the misfortune of others or seem satisfied by having a complaint.  The people that expect the worst from the world and seem committed to their unhappiness.  
Being around negativity, even for a short moment, can be frustrating and emotionally taxing.  Yet unfortunately, it is unlikely that we can avoid negative people all together.  We are bound to have a run-in with a disheartening individual at some time or another, so it is best that we are prepared to respond in such a way that protects us from the negativity while still allowing us to learn something positive from the experience. 
So, having said that, what is the best way to respond?  Is it best that we ignore them and hope that they go away?  Should we respond in kind and give them an attitude adjustment?  Do we shower them in sunshine and encourage them to see life from a more elevated perspective?  And, on the same token, how do we protect ourselves from being drawn in by the pull of their negative energy?  How do we prevent an unsettling encounter from ruining our mood? 
To answer these questions, consider the following checklist, presented by author and counselor, Julie Hoyle. 
1. What does this person need?
Is there a chance that positive input is being sought? If the answer is yes, share something enlightening.  If the answer is no, keep the interaction brief.
2. Are they acting as a mirror?
The answer is a resounding “yes” if we have been sucked in by their negativity. When there is a pull, there is a resonance, and we are being shown where we are resisting the flow of life. When this is the case, breathe in deeply and accept what is.
3. Remember, this too will pass.
While we can offer compassion and point to other alternatives, we are not responsible for others. Suffering, to a point, is a choice. Be a part of the solution rather than adding to the illusion. Create space for an opening of awareness to happen.
4. Avoidance is O.K.
Protect and safeguard the sanctity of your internal state, and surround yourself with people who nurture you. On other occasions, remain upbeat and transform the negative into a positive.  Do it for long enough and it works wonders. If the other person cannot turn you on to their negativity, they may eventually give up.
5. Love really is the answer.
Everything always, always comes down to love. If we love and respect ourselves, we do not give ourselves away cheaply, and we do not stoop to negativity.  Instead, we stand our ground, offering others a place to rise up to. Always listen with love, and offer kindness to everyone, even if they don’t seem to “deserve” it at the time.