“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” -James Dean
It takes a lot of courage to get what we want. It seems counterintuitive, but I witness how many people refuse the goodness coming towards them, the goodness that they created themselves. It’s like there is some default setting on our hearts that clicks off right when we get to the edge of what we have been striving for. In retrospect, we could go back to those moments and realize it would have been just one change of mind that would have altered the course of events. Getting to that different way of seeing and lifting the veils from our perspective is the most challenging, yet gratifying work in which we can engage. It is the way we change the fundamental feel of our life and it starts by saying yes.
I woke up thinking about this idea of how we sabotage our best efforts. I have been coaching my son who has been working to find a job he loves for close to a year; now, as he is rounding third base with a perfect position in sight, all his anxiety has peaked and instead of witnessing all of his efforts in terms of the courageous persistence this has required, he waivers, afraid that what got him here will keep him from moving forward. Learning how to frame our experience through the lens of growth that it has provided is everything when it comes to how we approach the future. But it takes serious practice, this reframing that brings us back to yes after big disappointments.
I recently came across a study asking people about their biggest regrets. Twenty percent of those surveyed named romantic regrets, which was the biggest category. For women the ratio was even higher than for men, who proportionally, had more regrets about work-related mistakes. But the most interesting finding was that the regrets that stayed with people the longest and had the most damaging impact came from inaction rather than action. It is easier to let go of things that go wrong when we give them our best effort, but when we do nothing and things don’t work, we hang onto this and it shapes us in ways we often don’t see.
This is especially true when it comes to matters of the heart… We have become a culture of disbelievers. Our relationship history or the stories that surrounded our childhood confirm our worst fears- that people who love us will leave. For many, just one experience of a relationship prematurely ending and the regrets and discomfort of where it broke down, makes us feel so badly about the vulnerability and effort expended that we choose to give up on love entirely.
This is the worst choice we can make. Learning from our regrets, especially those that come from inaction is the only way back to living a life driven by yes, rather than by fear. Becoming bold about what we want comes through simple actions of being authentic and expressing our feelings. These two actions together are a pathway out of the deepest holes of doubt and regret and provide the basics of a practice that redeem us in love.