I seem to be in mismatching* mode these last few days – here’s another old saw I don’t agree with.
I guess it depends what you understand by “regret”. I define it as wishing I hadn’t done something, or had done something differently. So it seems rather foolish not to regret some of the stuff I’ve done in the past – coasting my way to a 3rd class degree, thinking I could get past the muppet turning right against my motorbike, taking that job … the list is endless! Did I learn stuff from those mistakes? Absolutely! Which is why I now wish I hadn’t done them. To me, refusing to regret things that I’ve done implies refusing to get the learnings from them.
There’s a big difference between regretting stuff I did (or didn’t do for that matter) and worrying about stuff that others did that harmed or hurt me. I rather wish certain women had treated me differently. It would have been nice if certain bosses had recognised my enormous talents. And it sure would have been nice if the muppet in the Citroen hadn’t decided to turn right across my path that December evening in 1978. But I can’t regret any of that – you can only regret your own actions. The equivalent to regret when it concerns other people’s actions is resentment. That doesn’t help me grow like the learning experiences I regret, it eats me up by placing the cause of my success or failure outside of myself.
And the biggest danger of all is if I start to beat myself up about the things I did to myself. That serves no purpose at all – if resentment against others poisons the heart, resentment against oneself is corrosive to the very soul.
So yes, I regret loads of stuff – but I resent nothing.
*Mismatching is a concept used in NLP, to indicate someone who automatically disagrees with whatever you tell them. Mismatchers can have great value if they are conscious they are doing it, because they challenge assumptions that others may simply accept. Where it has become automatic, personally I just find them annoying.