Frank Sinatra an American singer and actor was well known for his song ‘My Way.’ The lyrics tell a story about regrets. If you are around my age, you will know the song. But what about people who are 40 years younger than me? Do they know the song? Do those in their 20s and 30s have regrets? Or do they live a carefree life, happy and breezy without any worries? If the ‘younger set’ have misgivings about their actions in the past they could be more familiar with the song ‘Shouda, Coulda, Woulda.’
What if we have regrets
Is it okay to have regrets? Or should we cast them aside like Frank and say ‘regrets I’ve had a few, but then again too few too mention. I did what I had to do, I saw it through without exemption.’ Is that too cold hearted? To be frank, Mr Sinatra was married four times. He also had other extra-marital relationships, around six.
We must not get hooked in by a song’s lyrics. They can be misleading. In the song ‘My Way’ Frank sings away telling us that after the tears he found it all ‘amusing’. But this is not so in the real world. The lyrics did not reflect the emotions that Frank Sinatra went through in his life. He Sinatra suffered from depression, he was a heavy drinker and tried to take his life several times. The true story is that Mr Sinatra did have regrets.
What about regrets when we take on too much?
There are times in our life when we take on too much – more than we can chew! With bravado we take on a difficult task. We face the situation, as uncomfortable as it is and work through it. But what if it does not work out?
One verse from the song ‘My Way’ says the following,
Yes, there were times
I’m sure you knew
When I bit off, more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all, and I stood tall
And did it my way
The lyrics, written by Paul Anka describe taking on more than we could manage. I identify with the lyrics as there have been times I have bitten off more than I could chew. If we under-achieve on the task, we have to manage regret. We have to get over it and stand tall. That is, believe in ourselves and our ability to do better in the future.
But if we do not know how to resolve our disappointment, our regret, then we can carry this into our future.
Regret is our ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ moments
Another way to describe regrets is by the ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ syndrome. One day when I was in a ‘shoulda phase’ my son Matt told me about the song, ‘Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda.’ It piqued my interest. Beverley Knight and Craig Wiseman wrote the song. It is an R&B (Rhythm and Blues) song. It tells about the breakup of a long-term relationship when Knight chose to put her career first. While Knight had regrets, she also had the good fortune of a hit song.
There is nothing to gain from talking about the past, about our ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ moments. All we can do is recognise when we are in the ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ phase. We have to let it go. We must let it go! When we move beyond regret, we make things better for the ‘here and now.’ No amount of ruminating on the past will make it better or change it.
Healing the past
I know that there is nothing I can do to change the past. Those decisions made in a fleeting moment. Or even after much soul searching. We still have to manage our emotions and motives.
There is a long list of regrets that many of us can tap into. Such as turning down the job, the promotion, when it required moving to another city. Then there are times when we do not accept an offer of help. Entrenched in our thinking is that we should never be a ‘charity case.’
Regrets include so many missed opportunities. We worried too much about something that never happened. We did not offer support to a loved one when they were in a crisis. We did not show the best side of our character. We put work and our interests before those we love.
We should have expressed our feelings. We could have kept in touch with old friends. We could have loved more. We should have said more. We should have found the right words at the right time. We could have done more. But now it is too late. These are all our – ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ moments.
We cannot live in the space of regret and feel okay about ourselves. But does that mean we should bury regret? Can we learn from the past, from those occasions of regret?
How to live with regret
We live better with regret when we come to the realisation that we cannot change the past. Awareness of our past regrets will lessen regrets in the future. Alongside this we must also develop awareness of what we are doing and how we are behaving in the present.
It is okay to reflect on our life and identify our actions or decisions that brought about regret. We change nothing if we do not learn from the past. If we do learn from our regrets this will have a huge impact on our future.
We will live better lives even with regrets if we do something about them. Do we have to apologise? Do we have to forgive? Write that letter? Send that email? Make that phone call? But more so can we forgive ourselves?
Learning from our regrets is a better option than burying them. Regrets will come back to haunt us if we do not integrate the lesson into our life. Learning, growing, and living our best life eliminates too many unnecessary ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ moments. Then we can concentrate on creating and sharing our ‘better life’ story – one with less regret.
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