The other day I was clearing out my home office in preparation for our upcoming move, when I stumbled upon a box of supplies left over from an old business opportunity I had undertaken several years ago. It was a perfectly fine business opportunity, but it wasn’t for me. Looking back, I knew even then that it wasn’t right for me, but I had determinedly ignored my inner voice and pursued it anyway.
As I sorted through this box of paperwork and supplies, I felt my face flame with embarrassment and regret. How could I have been so stupid to think I could ignore my true calling and pursue another path because it seemed easier at the time? Evidence that revealed how hard I had tried to make it work was strewn throughout the box: records of appointments and training classes I’d attended, brochures I’d designed, sales letters I had painstakingly written, and even motivational notes I’d written to encourage myself to keep going.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling, facing a box full of regrets. I thought about all the time I’d wasted on that business opportunity, and wondered where I’d be today if I had just listened to my inner calling from the beginning.
As I began emptying the box and shredding old paperwork, I began to feel a little lighter and my thoughts began to drift. Was the time I spent on that business opportunity really wasted? In hindsight, I can see that it wasn’t. I learned so much from that experience, some of it having to do with business – but mostly about myself. Even though it wasn’t my true calling, I would still have to acknowledge that it was time well-spent. I simply took a detour on my life path. Perhaps my reasons (fear and denial) weren’t the most lofty, but the experience was no less valuable.
Perhaps you have a box full of regrets hidden in your closet, even if only on an emotional level. Do you regret jobs you’ve held in the past, or relationships you clung to even when they didn’t seem to contribute anything of value to your life? Do you wish you had gone to college when you were younger, or do you wish you had chosen another major? Are there choices you made in the past that make you cringe with embarrassment now?
Most of us have a tendency to be really hard on ourselves, expecting perfection and nothing less. But it’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to make perfect decisions every single time. There are too many unknown factors that could come into play, and even when we’re absolutely sure we’re making the right choice, it might not turn out the way we expected.
When you stop to think about it, there really aren’t any right or wrong decisions in life. Each choice simply moves us down a different path, and we can learn something valuable from each of them. Just because something didn’t work out like we thought it would doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile.
However, in my experience, the journey becomes much more enjoyable if we take the time to listen to our heart. When we let our inner voice guide us to the choices that feel most right, that’s when the real magic begins to happen. Our lessons become richer and more meaningful. We feel a sense of excitement and inspiration as we embark on a new pathway with each choice we make. Even our “mistakes” seem more valuable, if not downright funny. We can laugh at our foibles and learn from them. Most importantly, we realize that the journey itself is the destination.
As the saying goes, “hindsight is 20/20”. Our vision is much clearer when we look back with the knowledge we have today. But if we always had the ability to see the big picture, wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of a life spent learning and growing? We’re not supposed to have all the answers right now. I think many of us tend to forget that from time to time.
My box of regrets is gone now, and in fact, I no longer see them as regrets. Instead, I’ve got a big empty box that I’m eager to start filling with new experiences. Will I look back and feel red-faced about them at a future time? Possibly. Or maybe I’ll simply smile and be grateful for the chance to learn and grow some more. 🙂