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The power in letting go of regret

Regret… now that’s an emotion that we are ALL familiar with, some perhaps more than others. Unless you are a sociopath, in which case you do not have the brain function necessary to feel the emotions associated with ‘regret’. So anyway, I did a quick search on this blog and turns out I have written exactly eight posts were I have tagged ‘regret’ as a key word. It’s a word that I have associated with coming out stronger from adversary, in making life choices, with death, with honesty, with having more than others – a myriad of situations which on the surface are not related to each other.

But looking at these posts, basically I have associated it with any situations where I felt there was a choice (ok, death was not by choice but maybe I have survivor’s guilt). So even though we love the feeling of having options – unfortunately, the minute we make the choice – any choice (it really doesn’t matter what we choose) – we immediately open ourselves to the very real possibility of experiencing regret – for not picking the option we didn’t choose.

I was watching the movie “About Time” last weekend, and the main character in it reaches the age of 21 and discovers that part of his inheritance is the ability to time travel. Now I tried imagining that given this ability there would be events in my past that I would choose to erase (trust me, I have a vivid imagination). The thing is, just like in the movie, if the butterfly effects of things changed means that I don’t meet certain people, experience certain situations, fundamentally, who I am, would change. And surprisingly it turns out THAT is a choice that I am not willing to make.

I like me, I am me because of everything that has happened to me, through the years, with the people, in places and situations, which at the time I had thought were the worst thing that can possibly happen. Yet, there I was, slapped on the face with the realization that I don’t want to lose or change who I am.

You know what that means? I don’t.

I think it might mean that I am letting go of the regret I had felt at the decisions I had made through life. That I had somehow made peace with my choices. Now knowing me, before I make any choice, I do weight them on a scale (I am a Libra so that figures my obsession with the scale thingy). I do the whole exercise of columns and rows of alternate scenarios and in most cases, I had chosen, what I believed at the time, to be the best possible option/choice. I can be quite obsessive with having a plan A (for action) and back up plan B, C, D… you get the picture.

Now, if you watch the Ted Talk below you will notice that at 6.15, she outlines what people regret the most – or rather the choices that people regret the most and funnily enough these are related to – education, career, romance, parenting, self, leisure, finance, family, health, friends, spirituality and community – in exactly that descending order. And that basically means that we most regret the things where we feel that we had a choice and we could’ve chosen something else. But what if like me, you get to a point, where you realize that at the moment of choosing, you had weighted all your options and you had made the best possible choice you can?

Would you still then hold on to regret? Or would you let it go?

So, here’s what I am going to be doing…. I am going to get myself tattooed this weekend and then be damn happy that I at least had the courage to do something that I had always wanted to get done. And if I regret my tattoos, then I guess I will learn to love my imperfect flawed creation 😉

The lesson that I ultimately learned from my tattoo and that I want to leave you with today is this: We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we know we can do better.

BTW, hindsight is always 20/20, so don’t bother looking back.. just keep moving forward 🙂

 

 

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Life’s third act

I came upon a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl was a German psychiatrist who’d spent five years in a Nazi concentration camp. And he wrote that, while he was in the camp, he could tell, should they ever be released, which of the people would be okay and which would not. And he wrote this: “Everything you have in life can be taken from you except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. This is what determines the quality of the life we’ve lived — not whether we’ve been rich or poor, famous or unknown,healthy or suffering. What determines our quality of life is how we relate to these realities, what kind of meaning we assign them, what kind of attitude we cling to about them, what state of mind we allow them to trigger.”

Perhaps the central purpose of the third act is to go back and to try, if appropriate, to change our relationship to the past. It turns out that cognitive research shows when we are able to do this, it manifests neurologically — neural pathways are created in the brain. You see, if you have, over time,reacted negatively to past events and people, neural pathways are laid down by chemical and electrical signals that are sent through the brain. And over time, these neural pathways become hardwired, they become the norm — even if it’s bad for us because it causes us stress and anxiety.

If however, we can go back and alter our relationship, re-vision our relationship to past people and events, neural pathways can change. And if we can maintain the more positive feelings about the past,that becomes the new norm. It’s like resetting a thermostat. It’s not having experiences that make us wise, it’s reflecting on the experiences that we’ve had that makes us wise — and that helps us become whole, brings wisdom and authenticity. It helps us become what we might have been.

Getting your priorities right

If you have ever struggled with getting your priorities right…

If you have woken up too many mornings wondering how you will drag yourself through the day…

If you have looked at your life thinking I need to change something but I don’t know where to start…

Then this Ted Talk is for you 🙂

You can read the full transcript here.

Attitude and Entitlement

I try to help people network, to find opportunities, for business, for jobs. I actually enjoy doing it but at times when I politely decline, or advice a job seeker to rethink their approach to the search, some simply respond back with a renewed appeal to help them make more money, to save them from the misery of their current jobs/bosses/companies. In short, to use my network to land them a better-paying job anywhere. The tone of the appeals remind me of the fairy tale myth of a knight in shining armour riding in to rescue the damsel in distress.

When I advice these people to get more experience or trainings or education, it’s not taken well. They don’t want advice, suggestion or help. You land them a job that pays better, has lax/better working conditions and they will be happy. Everything else, simply falls on deaf ears.

Now, riddle me this – “What do these people tell themselves that they are entitled to?”

Take this one particular guy for example. He has been working in the same company for the past 16 years, doing the exact same thing. He’s a graduate, who latched on to his first job and remained there. He fed himself the lies and fears that everyone (yes that includes me) feels. He’s poor, not very well-connected, not smart enough, good-looking enough, intellectual enough, the wrong gender (and you can add many more…) so he can’t get a better job. Forget the fact that for 16 freaking years, he did not even attempt to do something more in his own work! No growth, vertical or horizontal. No network or support within the company either because he doesn’t get along with any of his colleagues or he feels isolated, threatened and lashes back at real or imaginary slights. Not once does he stop to question that if he has a problem with EVERY single person around him, then the root of the problem might be himself.

What makes people with attitude like this think that the company is going to owe him a living for the rest of his life? that he has any right to complain about how much he gets paid? Or that even after his job becomes defunct, the company will continue to employ him in a function no longer needed? How?

The mental record that this guy (and I am sure million others) is playing to himself/herself over and over again is that of being a victim of circumstances. To these people destiny is determined by events and instances totally out of their control. 

 One guy wrote me a message, in really bad english (that’s my pet peeve), about how he needs to find a better paying job because he needs to support his family. Really? Like seriously? Show me one person who doesn’t have obligations. Show me one person who doesn’t have a present or future family to support. Show me one person who doesn’t have problems in this world, whether that’s money or family or physical or mental or something else. Do they really sit around thinking that they are going to get a job, keep a job and get paid more every year … just because they need it? Who doesn’t want or need more than what they have right now?

Sadly though this quote by Thomas Jefferson is the most apt in this situation. You can spend  months and years trying to help someone but until they are willing to help themselves …… nothing changes.

In Bangladesh, a country of close to 160 million people, if you can read and write you are part of the 53% of the population who can do so and half the competition is already eliminated there.  If you have access to internet, you are part of the 3.7 to 6 % of the population who do so, putting you literally at the top percentile of the population. If you have a job, you should be grateful that you are not part of the 5% of the population who cannot find employment.

So let’s look at it in another way: In a country of 160 million people, you are in the top 53% because you are literate, top 6% because you have access to internet. To top it of, in these times of global recession, despite all the political turmoil, you are employed in an economy that experienced 6% GDP growth and 3% employment growth. Do you need more?

Do these people realize that a growing economy creates jobs that has never existed before? That our education prepared us for jobs that were probably defunct in the 4-6 years that it took us to graduate? Theories and concepts go through constant evolution, unless we keep up, we become dinosaur in the job market?  To grow horizontally or vertically in our function or job is our own responsibility?

NO ONE owes anyone anything. If our parents afforded us an education, they have already done more than enough. They do not owe it to us, to use their relatives, networks, connections, savings to plead or pay for us to secure a job. That is our responsibility.

If a company employs us, they do not owe it to us to see to our professional growth. We have to do it ourself and if we can’t grow within the company then it is our responsibility to grow outside of it.

Change your sense of entitlement. Change that mental record that says, I am owed this or that. Change the mental record that you are victim of circumstances, birth, limitations etc. We determine our own attitude.

 

No one grows alone. Everyone needs help. We all need bosses we can learn from; mentors to guide us in our journeys; books to expand our mind; ideas and debates that rock the believes we hold and helps us shape new ones. The more your sense of entitlement is pointed inward to yourself, the more you expect of yourself, the more time you invest in yourself, the better the result.

Until you know where you want to go, how can others show you how to get there?

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