“I wish I’d spent more time with her,” shared “Paul.” His moistened eyes trailed off over my shoulder as he talked about having recently lost of his mother.
For sure, it’s an uncomfortable thought, but I suspect that we all can relate in some way to Paul’s remorse. Replace his “her” with your “her” (or “him”) and put it into a different context – a child off to college, the military, etc., or like Paul, the passing of a loved one – and we can understand the impact of missing those irretrievable moments of opportunity in life.
Okay, think for a few seconds about a “I wish I’d spent more time” situation in your life. Jot it down on a piece of paper. What got in the way of your spending that time? Were there factors within your control? What could you possibly do to avoid that the next time?
Now think for another few seconds about a “I wish I’d used better judgement” situation in your life. Jot that down as well. What was the less than desirable outcome or outcomes? What could you do to avoid that the next time?
Let’s put some more meat on the bones of these polar opposites – “I wish” versus “I’m glad” – those choices we have in life. My good friend “John,” a Purple Heart recipient, offers an example.
“I should have known better than carrying those heavy boxes up stairwells but did it anyway. I’ve been experiencing chronic back pain ever since.”
You see, for brother “John and so many others, “I wish” is water under the bridge, the lost opportunity, the cost of a regretful decision.
Another way to look at this is that “I wish” resides in our rearview mirror. “I’m glad” is the opportunity for a better decision. It resides in our windshield, along the road ahead.
Quickly, read through this list of missed and seized opportunities:
“I wish I had apologized” – “I’m glad I apologized.”
“I wish I’d not smoked that first cigarette” – “I’m glad I never smoked.”
“I wish I had not skipped that difficult class” – “I’m glad that I took that tough class.”
“I wish I was not speeding” – “I’m glad I wasn’t speeding.”
“I wish I had written a book” – “I’m glad I decided to write a book.”
“I wish I started my own business” – “I’m glad I became my own boss.”
“I wish I had interrupted Raul’s racist behavior” – “I’m glad I helped Raul deal with his racism.”
“I wish I had not uttered those words” – “I’m glad that I didn’t say what I really wanted to say.”
“I wish I’d gotten to know him better before I married him” – “I’m glad I got to know him better before accepting his marriage proposal.”
“I wish that I’d gotten that colonoscopy” – “I’m glad I had that colonoscopy and had those cancerous polys removed.”
“I wish I’d listen to the advice from my parents” – “I’m glad I listened to my parents.”
“I wish I’d started saving money years ago” – “I’m glad I put money aside a long time ago.”
“I wish we’d use birth control” – “I’m glad we used birth control.”
Now with a past situation in your life fill in the blanks below:
“I wish I______________” – “I’m glad I___________________________”
Although we have no control over what’s behind us, we do have control over what’s ahead. And living in regret is unhealthy and emotionally taxing. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck there. As the saying goes, “I’m interested in the future because I plan to live the rest of my life there.”
On the other hand, existing in the great possibilities of “I’m glad” is the place to be. So think down the road about the consequences of your current choices and decisions because you don’t always get a do over. When in doubt, do your homework, seek advice from a trusted friend, evaluate the risks, err on the side of caution.
Now one last exercise I want you to complete before we go. Fill in the blanks below.:
“I wish I’d shared this article with_______” – “I’m glad I shared this article with_______” because doing so would have saved all of us a lot of wasted time, headaches and money.
In the end, it’s not too late to go from “I wish” to “I’m glad.”
The key to the shift is (repeat after me)….. to “act.”