If you are unhappy, it is likely a result of regret. Regret kills the soul and enslaves the mind. “I wish had done that. I wish I hadn’t done that. I wish this could have been different. I shouldn’t have. I should have…”
We see from these few example the power of words. “Wish” has no place in the human experience, as it references the past. The past has no place in your current existence, as it supersedes the present via the unfortunate tendency of the mind to adopt it. What you are doing now is what counts. “Should” is a dangerous word and has no place in vocabulary except as a method of communication. It is an instrument of spiritual and emotional torture. Both “wish” and “should” result in regret and, as stated, regret kills the soul.
You have your current life but once. Reliving past experiences is not useful, save for enriching the present. If it does otherwise, it is an extraneous element, a foreign virus, and should be given no power to either influence or control. The past should stay in the past, apart from the mind and present, where it can do no harm. Regret is an unwelcome interloper into the present. It demands to be dealt with, using assumed authority it usurped from your present existence.
There are two main types of regret: negative and positive, but not bad and good. They are “I wish no” and “I wish yes.” The first tortures us through the negative by saying, “I wish that had not happened” or “I wish I had not done that.” We, of course, cannot change the past. We cannot go back and relive those moments in the past during which we commit perceived mistakes. I say “perceived,” because a mistake only appears so through the faulty lens of our own fallibility. We make decisions based on present knowledge and perception. To use present knowledge and insight to judge our past selves is unfair and not useful. To realize a failure of our past is merely an indication that we have grown in understanding and should in that way be celebrated. We are not celebrating the past failure, we are embracing our present growth. The question is not what to do with the past, for it is behind us. The question is what are we going to do with our progress. The past is a reference point, a way to measure our present selves, and that is all.
The second type is similar in its value. Something undone cannot be performed in its original position on the timeline of our existence. It, too, is only useful as a point of reference. Just as a past event cannot be undone, so it cannot be done. Lessons going forward are all that have literal power and can be experienced. We can avoid duplicating past failures and escape missing present opportunities. The first requires inaction and the second, action.
Caroline Myss wrote, “Do you really want to look back on your life and see how wonderful it could have been had you not been afraid to live it?” This thought is at the core of positive regret. Imagine sitting on your front porch in a rocking chair at 80 years of age and wondering what would have happened if you’d turned over that rock, investigated that cave, taken that journey, thought those thoughts, traveled those miles, listened to those words, considered those possibilities, smelled those flowers, broken those chains, or challenged that authority.
I much prefer the risk of failure than the certainty of positive regret. The lesson is the recognition of the call to live freely, deeply, widely. With focus but without determination, with understanding but without assumption, with desire but without fabrication. The search for truth is not in the destination, but within the journey itself. Fear of failure is not essentially part of the equation – we only make it so. There are no failures in the search, only further learning. Failure is merely an experience of enlightenment. In fact, the only failure to be feared is that of inaction, a missed call to progress.
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” – Buddha