Regretfully, I did...

Which do we regret more; things we’ve done, or things we’ve left undone? Regret sits in our emotional and physical bodies sometimes for years, yet we often don’t know how to let it go. Here are some practical tips to explore.

November 14, 2023
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JJ, I was just thinking it's the season, right? We're getting into the season, the season of giving, the season of donations. Isn't your mailbox getting cluttered with lots of envelopes for donating and that sort of

Uh, probably. It's like Give to the

I do.

coming up. Is it, is

Yeah, yeah,

event? Or, yeah.

I don't know. I, I don't know. I, I don't, I'm not good with dates as you know.

It got me thinking though, one of the huge things that I love to do is donate to that, um, second,

Second Harvest Heartland.


role in your life is to remember that. That organization's

don't know why I can't remember that name. Ugh. Anyway, it got me thinking about something though, because they're doing a big push for donations right now. And I got, I just got being curious about what, like, why do I always feel so passionate about giving to this?

Obviously, it's a huge beneficial organization, so it's, there's all the obvious reasons, right? But I have a special interest in this one, and I, I hadn't ever actually explored why. And then it hit me this week. I had an experience. I bet it was It was at the Mall of America when it first opened. So how many years ago is that?

20, yeah, or more, maybe more. Like, it maybe opened in like the mid 90s. Early nineties. Early nineties. I, I went there in high school. I would go there in high school. It was like the early nineties. It was probably like 1990.

Okay. So I was in my early twenties then,


anyway. Okay. Okay, I had an experience that to this day I regret so deeply. I don't know how to get over it.


And I think one of

don't wanna, I don't wanna insert comedy in the middle of your story, but it's like, I'm at the mall and there's this regret. I'm like, is it shoes? No.

Don't be ridiculous. Of course I bought the shoes. Silly. I can't even believe you'd wonder about that. No, I'll tell you. I'll tell you about it. I'll tell you about it. Um, but I wanted to talk about regret. It got me thinking about this idea of regret. It got me thinking about the things in my life that I I don't want to go to the grave with regrets. That's like a big thing for me. But I realize I have this regret that happened at the mall when I was quite young and I don't know how to get rid of it.

So here's what happened. They had all those food courts and it was kind of a big deal when it first opened. There was, uh, like a, there was some kind of crepes restaurant that was at one of the food courts in the mall of America and it was a novel place, right? And so I went and got a crepe for lunch. And while I was sitting in the main area, the open, it was actually right out in the open, um, a homeless person came up to me and it was a woman and she said, is that good?

And I said, yeah, it is. And she said, would you buy me lunch? And I said, oh, I don't think so.


Simple as that. And she went, huh, and walked away. And I'll tell you something. I cannot get over this. I can't get over it. Um, and I don't, I don't know what to do to get over it.

That's like,

It's just a huge regret.

that's like a 30 year thing you still think about.

Yes, exactly. And I do still think about it.

any other detail. Like try to remember a detail that vividly from your mid

Mm hmm.

Like, you probably

I know. No, I remember what she was wearing. I remember what she was carrying. I remember it like it was absolutely yesterday. And I feel like it was one of those searing memories that just like hit my long term system. And like, there's just, there, I don't know if I'll ever be able to do enough to feel like I have

Oh, I see what you're saying. So, you're, you're actually, you're, you were kind of saying, like, you're, the, one of the things that drives you to, to donate to nonprofits, specifically ones around food insecurity, are because of this event

100%. Yep.

um, with this

Right? Right? Yep. Yep. Right, right.

Mm hmm.

Well, it, it, it's not, it certainly isn't something to be lauded in my opinion, you know, um, I, I honestly, but I just thought I wanted to talk with you about regret because I think there's all kinds of regrets that we have in our lives. And I think some of them are, you know, um, some of them are really serious, serious things that have happened.

Some of them really aren't. Some of them are short term. You know, I think there's a number of types of regrets. I think there's

hmm. Yeah, so,

this I don't know what this one falls under.

Well, that's a good question. Um,

I know

regrets are funny because you hear, we hear it all the time that you never want to be, like, on your deathbed with regrets, right? You get that no regrets tattoo.

Uh huh

Uh, I

Yeah, right. Okay, there will be no tattoos


Absolutely, no tattoos

But, yeah, the idea that we try to construct or go through life

Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

regrets is


I don't know, like, I don't know how to explain it. It's positioned in a way. I'd say, like, there's a positioning around regrets that, like, you shouldn't have them.

there Right, if there's a theoretical talk about regrets, just like everything else in this world, you know, the human condition There's always the theoretical you should you could blah blah blah Then there's the real McCoy the stuff that really sits in there Is that have you had things in your life that you've regretted?

Like do you have any recollection? You know, I don't I'm not asking you to you know, whatever Have have there been things in your life where you have recalled and that feeling of regret comes up Or do you feel not really?

for sure. There's, there's definitely things that I think all of us have done or not done. Actually, I would say the, the things that I regret the most are things that I didn't do, not things that I actually did.

Okay. Yeah. Oh, that's so good because that's really

I think like inaction is what I generally regret much more than. Like bad action, you know what I mean?

Like if I do something and I kind of like F it up or it's inappropriate or whatever, at least like I, you know, Um, can kind of rectify that in some way, you know, or I can apologize for it or I can, I, there is some course of action after you do, if you don't do anything, um, that to me, it's the much harder one to deal with, like on a long term basis, because you can't ever go back and rectify it.

Like, you can't ever go back and buy that woman lunch, right? And it will

Thank you

and it will stick with you forever. And it's stick, you know what I mean? Like, and it's stuck with you.

Yeah, I do.

If you could go do that, if you could go figure out who that was, go buy her lunch right now, you would go do that, and you might be able to actually release that regret.

Right. Right. But what do you do when you can't sew? We're doing a

I don't know,

A, I started the conversation, I started the conversation this morning, which normally is not the case, mostly because I wander around the woods to get to the story and you're always so much better. Um, but the second thing that I did that is usually role reversal is I went to the Google, I went to the Google and I asked

your research.

I did my research because I, I was waiting for you to say, I don't really have many regrets.

I mean, I don't know if I, if

I'm just trawl a lying through life with no regrets, it's amazing. It's skipping,

It's amazing, carrying your basket with flowers. All right, here are six steps that I was given in one of the things that I read on what to do to remove a regret.

Oh, this is good. I like this. Oh, I like being on this side of the coin

Yeah. Don't get used to it. It's very uncomfortable for me. All right. What to do. Number one, let yourself feel regret without avoiding or wallowing in it.


it's a little late for, for that for me, because I have

kind of like wallowing it

I probably do wallow. I said,

So that's a little

time to deal with it differently?


Okay. If your behavior caused harm, try to make amends. Okay. So I feel like I've done that. I feel like I. Well, as many amends as I possibly can, you know, I try to show kindness to people.

I try to be giving of, giving of my resources to the others. I try to give a lot of money to food insecurity specialty

the, the event has like, okay, what's interesting about this is this, this is like a, a burden on you emotionally, yet it has really shaped who you are and created a really great, amazing virtue about

Oh, that's interesting. That's a really nice way to, and, and that's number four.

Oh, I skipped

three and you went right to four. Well, number four, and then I'll go back to three, number four is reframe your experience of regret.

Oh yeah, we talk about reframing all the

you've just said, I know, I know. It's so funny.

I mean, it's like, I always say, when you're standing in your frame, you can't see your own picture. You know, like it'd be easier for me to be talking about this if this was you, I would prefer it would be you instead of me, nothing personal, um, the, but number three, which I will come back to now is learn to forgive yourself.

That's hard to do.

Now, it's very hard to do. Now, it's very easy to see that, and it's also very easy to, you know, manipulate your brain into saying, Well, yeah, just, just do that. You know, how hard can it be? Well, um, apparently it's pretty hard.

From your

Apparently it's pretty hard. Yeah, yeah, and forgiving yourself, I think, is the key to so many pieces of self awareness and self growth.

Actually, it's the key, it's the key to everything when you're trying to develop yourself, I think. Um, okay, so that was number three. Number four was reframe. Number five was write about and share your regret. So, I don't think I should just do anything quietly on a post it note. Nope, I have to talk about it in a pod with thousands of listeners. Nothing like putting myself out there, right? Um, but I, I think it's really important to... To share, to share it, because maybe that's part of the challenge of regret, because I think there's some shame involved with regret. You know, shame of not behaving in a way,

I would say that that's the primary, that's the primary

mm hmm,

And you hold on to that for a really long time.

yeah, and when shame stays in secret, it's a very powerful, it's a powerful emotion. But I think just kind of bringing it out and talking about it makes it a little more, I don't know, more, more available to you to release some of it. Um, and then, uh, number six was use regret to clarify what you value.

Well, look, it's JJ. Did you write that Google article? Like, you just naturally did all those things. So good.

I was more succinct about it.

to clarify what you value.

Okay, tell me the list again. Like go through that whole list again.

Okay. Number one, let yourself feel regret without avoiding or wallowing in it. Well, I think that's like key, right? Obviously, we always talk about that skimming off the top and worrying about something else over the top of it. Okay, so number one, let yourself feel regret. Number two, if your behavior caused harm, try to make amends. Um, number three, learn to forgive yourself. Number four, reframe your experience of regret. Reframe your experience of regret. Um, number five, write about and share your regret. And number six, use regret to clarify what you value.

yeah, that's, that's really good. That it, that is like so many things that are fairly simple. Like you can understand all of those things, but they are really hard to do.

Yeah. Yeah. Um, in addition to that, I also Googled some other things around regret. And there's one other part I want to share with you. I think this is just a really healthy conversation to have, particularly with the holiday season coming up. I think there are a lot of personal relationships, family relationships in which regret runs really deep.

Um, and you know what, maybe it's time for all of us to be able to put some of that down. Um, you know, maybe it's time to allow growth and reframing and forgiveness so that you can expand into something else and leave some of that behind. Um, so this was interesting cause I found a PhD that recommended asking yourself a series of questions as a way to move forward from regret and then to create healthier behavioral patterns.

So are you ready?

Ready? Hmm.

There's like five or six. Okay, um, number one. Have you noticed how excessive regret affects what you do and say?


Do you have a, do you have a,

that, so

go ahead.

how does it affect what you do and say, so in your example, it affects what you do. It probably affects what you say.

Yeah. Yeah.


Yeah, because I don't wanna, I don't wanna, I don't wanna, you know, it's like, it's like when you do speak, when you become a speaker, they teach you how to tell stories. You know, like a good speaker is a great storyteller and a good speaker recognizes the incredible power over how the story is told.

You know, a good speaker will want to seem like the one that gets along the best with the audience, doesn't have to be the hero, doesn't have to be the power, right? Bad speaker will try to command and be all of these things. I think right in here, um, If you're, if you're, we all speak to everybody, we all interact with everybody, and I think our egos are constantly moving us in a direction of trying to be the hero or trying to not be the hero, you know, I mean, I just think naturally that's the case.

And how do you notice how excessive regret affects what you do and say right in there, you know, like I could have just used a totally different example today. on our pod and, um, I could have spun it very casually and non personally and yet this one is so big I just felt like I couldn't not. So I mean that's how it affected me.

I had to say something today about it. Okay. Second, the second question. Could you have acted any differently considering the particular stage in your life and the information and experiences you had until this

Oh, yeah, I was just gonna ask you, I was gonna ask that question specifically, like, Well, I was gonna, I wanted to bring up the idea that, like, a lot of regrets are from when we were maybe younger. Well, all regret, all regrets are from the past, right? No regrets is from the future. Like, I, in the future, I'm going to regret not, you know, like, that's not a thing. All regrets are from the past and like what you know now versus what you know then and kind of what your experience was then, what your, you know, even like emotional or cognitive abilities were back then are completely different than they are today. So, so it's actually pretty unfair of yourself to like regret a thing that your younger self did because you're not remembering.

Like your maturity level and experience level at that time as a 20 year old, right? You can't apply your, your, you know, your, your 50 year old brain to your 20 year old actions.

Yeah. Right. Well, yeah, yeah, exactly. Right. I mean,

mean, you, right. You can't hold your, you can't hold your younger self accountable to who you are today. Maybe that's a better way to phrase

yes, that's a, yes, exactly. Yeah.

being, being, giving yourself some grace, like, yes, I was immature and stupid and I wish I didn't do that, but I did. I've learned, I've done all of these things and it's made me a better person in the long run. Thank you, lady, for. Even approaching me at that point in my life

Yeah, no kidding.

because in one way she actually gave you a tremendous gift Even though you feel bad about it She gave you a tremendous gift that has given though has allowed you to give the world and many more people than just her


You know, you've helped many more people beyond her. So she kind of like In an extension has helped hundreds or thousands of people through you

Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah, that's a really interesting way to look at it. Honestly, I feel a lot lighter just even thinking about it like that. I really do. Here are just a couple of other questions. I mean, I really think that was the piece de resistance. I'm surprised they didn't just have that as the only one because it's very powerful, at least the way you framed it.

Okay, here's the number three. Was it only you or did anything else contribute to your mistake? Now that's an interesting

that we, we, I, I, that one's interesting because I, I think we take way more, um, we think we have a lot more influence over the world than we actually do.


and, and, and so again, when we start looking backwards, our, our memories get so bad, right? And we just don't really remember all of these details.

And there's probably lots of other compounding factors that were going on, um, you know, during these times.

that, that's the other one. Okay. And then was there anything specific in the situation that you particularly regret? So I guess that's being more and more specific, and I think I've already kind of talked about that in this, in this scenario, but, um, anyway, yeah, those were, oh, and then, sorry, um, as a result of this regretful experience, have you changed the way you behave and respond in similar situations? Yes, I have,


maybe almost to a, maybe even almost to a fault sometimes, going in the

so what does it take, like what is it going to take for you to forgive yourself for that interaction and, like, let it go? Or can you never let it go? Is it just, like, is it just a part of who you are forever?

No, I, I, I think you're absolutely right. That's a great question and I think that there is nothing else that needs to happen for me to forgive myself. I just, I think it's reframing this and thinking about it, like. I think it's just been helpful to talk about it, like, I think it's really, uh, uh, an interesting perspective, like, just being able to share something that has caused so much shame and embarrassment and regret over this tiny, microscopic moment in time, you know, it's just like, there, that isn't a realistic thing to do.

And I certainly don't coach other people to do this, you know, yeah,

yeah, well, because you're in your head about it.

It's, yeah, exactly right, and it was my experience, you know, like, I hold myself to such a high standard. Well, let's be realistic. I'm a human being. I'm not a robot.

Uh, the,


the other thing, you know, this idea, like, what's it, I asked, what is it going to take for you to let it go? And I want to be, like, kind of more clear about that. I don't mean what is it going to take to forget it, because I don't think you should ever forget that lesson. I

Yeah. Oh, I don't think I could

you should forgive your younger, yourself for the way you acted at that time.

I agree. Interestingly enough, I just read this book, um, last week and I don't even remember the context or what part of it, but it's very, it was very similar. It was like, um, your younger self is somebody completely different. Oh, I remember what it was. I was listening to this new podcast that Julie Louis Dreyfus has out, which it is absolutely fantastic.

It's called Wiser Than Me and she interviews women that are older than her and great, you big names. And like the first one that she did was Jane Fonda. And she asked Jane this question, what would you tell your 21 year old self? And she asked that question on every one of her pods to all these women.

And every one of them has such unique and such interesting answers. And Jane's answer was, no is a complete sentence. Some of the other answers are, um, you know, what would you say to yourself? I would say lighten up. You know, it'll all work out and some of them said, one of them said, um, it doesn't matter what job you have right now because you're not going to be doing that your whole life at all.

Don't even worry about it. Don't even worry about it. And in the spirit of that, answering your question, it is the exact same thing. It's like my younger self didn't know, like I'm, I'm so much more. I was going to say mature, but you know, I always shy away from using the word mature to describe myself. But, you know, I do have so much more context to life, um, than I did at that time.

We're going to have a whole episode where we just come up with new words for being old.

Listen, I'm going first, you little brat.

Well thank you. Thanks for sharing. I mean, I know like sometimes, you know, sharing personal

big deal.

getting into that, um, Amount of detail from the past is sometimes hard. So I really appreciate you sharing it with all of us and, um,

Well, I always feel like you're way better at doing that than I am, but I'm trying. I'm trying. Yeah. And I just think I, you know, for our listeners too, it's like, I don't think, I think regrets come in all shapes and sizes and, and it just doesn't feel like a very helpful or useful long term ailment if left in your system unprocessed,

so like, I think a great exercise would be to think about those things that you regret and, and not just dwell on the thing you should have done. Just start thinking about, okay, I should have done a thing. But how has that shaped me and how have I turned that into, like, a positive today? And if you haven't, I'm sure you can figure out a way.

yeah, agreed. Great advice, JJ.

Discussed in this episode

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Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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