How to Stop Regretting Decisions

Great Egret in FlightSo here’s the story: After a lifetime of hand-copying ancient texts, an elderly monk became abbot of his monastery. Realizing that for centuries his order had been making copies of copies, he decided to examine some of the monastery’s original documents. Days later, the other monks found him in the cellar, weeping over a crumbling manuscript and moaning, “It says ‘celebrate,’ not ‘celibate!’”

Ah, regret. The forehead-slap of hindsight, the woeful fuel of country ballads, the self-recrimination I feel for eating a quart of pudding in a crafty but unsuccessful attempt to avoid writing this column. If you’ve ever made a bad decision or suffered an accident, regret has been your roommate, if not your conjoined twin. It’s a difficult companion, prone to accusatory comments and dark moods, and it changes you, leaving you both tougher and more tender. You get to decide, however, whether your toughness will look like unreachable bitterness or unstoppable resilience; your tenderness the raw vulnerability of a never-healing wound, or a kindness so deep it heals every wound it touches. Regret can be your worst enemy or your best friend. You get to decide which.

There are at least two time zones where you can choose to make regret’s powerful energy healing rather than destructive: the past and the future. Both can be transformed by what you decide to do right now, in this moment.

Let’s start by changing the past. If you think that can’t be done, think again. Literally. The past doesn’t exist except as a memory, a mental story, and though past events aren’t changeable, your stories about them are. You can act now to transform the way you tell the story of your past, ultimately making it a stalwart protector of your future. Try these steps, more or less in order.

1. Get Beyond Denial
As long as you’re thinking, “That shouldn’t have happened or I shouldn’t have done that,” you’re locked in a struggle against reality. Many people pour years of energy into useless “shouldn’t haves.” The angry ones endlessly repeat that their ex-spouses shouldn’t have left them, their parents shouldn’t have overfed them, or their bosses shouldn’t have made them wear uncomfortable chipmunk costumes in 90-degree heat. Even drearier are the sad ones, who forever drone some version of “If only.” If only they’d married Sebastian, or gotten that promotion, or heeded the label’s advice not to operate heavy machinery, they would be happy campers instead of les misérables.

I call this unproductive regret. People use it to avoid scary or difficult action; instead of telling the story of the past in a useful way, they use it as their excuse for staying wretched. If you’re prone to unproductive regret, please hear this: Everyone agrees with you. That thing you regret? It really, really, really shouldn’t have happened. But. It. Did. If you enjoy being miserable, by all means, continue to rail against this fact. If you’d rather be happy, prune the “shouldn’t haves” from your mental story, and move on to…

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Joy to the Boy… Insight From Martha

Bird Cage

PEOPLE, IT’S TIME TO SET MEN FREE!

I started my career back in the 90s writing about the way social change was tearing women apart. Twenty years later, I think women have made huge strides toward an altogether new way of viewing themselves and moving through the world. Our wonderful tribe of coaches is made up almost entirely of women who have found ways to be true to themselves no matter what society tells them.
 
Now, it’s time for our boys.
 
Even when I was researching the crisis of role stress for women, I could see what was coming for men: while women were ripped to pieces by conflicting social demands, men were being compressed into tinier and tinier role definitions that I call The Man Cage.
 
Here’s the best way I can describe it: when I tell a woman she needs to quit her horrible job, she must deal with her own fears and uncertainties. When I tell a man that he has to quit his horrible job, he has to go home and have a fight with his wife. We women may be fragmented, but we are relatively free. We can wear a skirt or a pair of pants without raising anyone’s eyebrows. Men must show up in a very limited array of colors and patterns—primarily the bleak colored suit with the colorful noose around the neck—or their masculinity will be called into question. In many minds, a man without a job is not a real man.
 
So, men, whose minds and bodies were made to run and climb and build and sweat and love, compete for soul-destroying occupations where they must sit, complete with noosed neck, in a fluorescently-lighted box taking orders to do things so boring that they make computers want to kill themselves.
 
Now here’s the kicker: the jobs for which men give up their happiness, usually in service of their families, are disappearing. It’s not a political issue, it’s a technological one. Robots and silicon chips can do the vast majority of things that once gave humans jobs.
 
So, that’s the situation. Men are being socialized to relinquish their joy for horrible pastimes that are no longer even available. So many of my beautiful male friends feel trapped, desperate, afraid, and separated from everything that gives them true happiness.
 
Guys, listen up: we women who love you want you to be happy. There is a new way rising in the world; a way to raise a family without extinguishing your inner light, a way to make your heart’s desires attract abundance. A way for it all to make sense. Joy to the Boy is my current obsession. It’s the title of the book I’m writing and the foundation of the workshop you’ll see offered in this newsletter. Start now. Set yourself free. You can do it. All good women are on your side.

Lame Animal Totem: Possum

Having just returned from another amazing African STAR (Self Transformation Adventure Retreat), filled with magical people and astonishing animal encounters, I’m even more obsessed with non-human creatures than usual. Anyway, I’m getting a bit confused by the number of different of meanings various sources associate with a given animal. Do bats really represent the ability to navigate in the read more…