It the classic movie, “On the Waterfront,” Marlon Brando laments to Rod Steiger in the backseat of a Buick, “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody.” How often have we mentally driven down that road only to come to a roundabout of regret we can’t escape?
“I could have taken that great job in Los Angeles.“
“I would have been a doctor by now if I’d stayed in med school.”
“I should have listened to my mother and dated that nice computer programmer turned millionaire.”
Life’s “coulda, woulda, shouldas ” are immeasurable. But why is it that we stay shackled to the black and white memories of our past when we can enjoy the Technicolor gifts of now? Here are three things to remember as you liberate your present and leave regret in the past.
You’re Not Psychic
People who overly analyze everything and beat themselves up for roads not taken hold themselves prisoner for something they could never have factored as part of their past experience. Saying “ I wouldn’t be in this mess now if I had made a different decision fifteen years ago” doesn’t take into account that you were a much different person in different circumstances back then. You made the choices that were right for you in that moment. Often those memories serve as benchmarks indicating how far we’ve come as individuals. We must lovingly let ourselves off the hook for not being able to tell the future or seeing every perceivable speed bump along the way. We need to shift our vibrational energy from being snarled in regret to flowing with forgiveness and always remember that we did the best we could at the time.
Think It Through
If you look past the regret itself, you may find some good came from your decisions. If you had taken that job in LA, you wouldn’t have met your wife or husband. If you’d stayed in med school, you’d be swimming in student loan debt right now. If you’d dated the computer programmer, you might be miserable because he or she was not the right fit for you. As much as 20/20 hindsight gives us the illusion that our past choices would yield greater outcomes, there’s a possibility they could have also made things worse. When we shift our energy to a place of spacious awareness, we can begin to recognize that our past choices have brought us to where we are now. The eradication of the need to evaluate how it has been allows you to be available for how it is shifting you immediately from victimhood into empowerment.
Dispel The Fantasy
We sometimes ruminate about decisions we made 5, 10, 15, 20 plus years ago and allow those regrets to form a complete disassociation with the here and now. The poisonous, “ I coulda been somebody” yarn we spin is fleecing us out of the empowerment that resides in the present moment. Our regrets can become so interwoven into the story we’ve told ourselves that the fictional plotline becomes an ever-running theme in our lives. Living with the perpetual delusion that “life could have been better if” tangles our energy, absolving us from the responsibilities of reality and enabling us to languish in a fictional fairytale. The Divine has so much more available for us and it is pure fantasy to believe that a scenario in the past is better than what the universe is unfolding in the present.
Regret can serve a significant purpose in your life by gently reminding you to make better choices in the future. You can learn from it and keep your luminous energy flowing freely in the present, not stalled in a painful version of your past.
You are, and always have been, somebody.