You can’t move forward if you’re still hanging on.
First and foremost, let’s make a pact to stop beating ourselves up for what we didn’t get accomplished these past twelve months. Starting a new year with regret (and the associated negative thoughts) puts us in a hole – one we’ll have to dig out from before we can move forward in 2022. Let’s leave regrets in 2021 and instead say HELLO to a New Year unburdened!
What if instead, we merely acknowledge that our starting line has shifted. That it’s not bad or good, it’s just different than where we hoped to start on 1/1/21?
As an example, I know I started 2021 with the idea that I was finally going to “get in shape” and hopefully lose a bit of weight in the process. After all, if many restaurants, bars and events were shuttered, I should have more time to exercise, right?
2021 was also going to be the year that I rolled out online on-demand training. I’ve had a lot of requests for this type of training and offering this new service could help more clients level up their employees’ skills (besides hopefully helping my bank account during a time when live event income has plummeted!). This was my #1 priority from a professional standpoint.
Alas, ten pounds later (sadly in the wrong direction) and zero lessons recorded, both of these items top my list of 2022 goals.
Now, do I have regrets that I didn’t get either accomplished (and even went the wrong way on my weight)? Of course. I made choices (like what I put in my mouth and how I spent my time) that didn’t allow me to successfully work towards either goal.
Should I just wallow in misery and beat myself up?
Absolutely not. Instead, I’ll let go of the regret at making the wrong decisions and focus on what I’ll do differently to get these goals moving forward successfully. I’ll kill “should have”, “would have” and their cousin “could have” and instead plan my time going forward so that action is accomplished on both of these big goals.
Yes, my starting point has shifted, but instead of focusing on thenegatives, I’ll make different decisions and take action to make it happen in 2022.
Now, if you need help pulling yourself out of the negative spiral, check out these blogs (then come back later when you’re ready):
- Beating Burnout and Getting Out of a Rut
- Embracing Change and Taking the Road Less Traveled
- Using “NO” to Find Your “YES”
- Creating Joy Amid the Chaos
- Resilience in the Age of COVID-19
- The End-of-Year Gift to Yourself: Forgiveness
You get a new year, you get a new start, you get a new opportunity.
Regret is universal. We’ve all done things that, afterward, we wished we hadn’t (see my two prime examples in the last section!).
Maybe it’s being so eager to impress your boss that you take on more projects than you can handle and end up doing subpar work on something really important (and maybe getting burned out, too). Maybe it’s dropping the ball on something your colleagues were counting on you to do. Maybe it’s partying with friends until 3 a.m. when you know you have a meeting the next day and you should have stayed in and caught some shut eye. Maybe it’s having that second slice of cake.
Whether your regrets arise in your professional life or in your personal life (or both!), remember that you aren’t alone in having them.
No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.
The way to rise above those mistakes is to think of them as opportunities for you to learn and become a better person (even if learning is just giving yourself a break!).
Planning for a No-Regret 2022!
It’s better to look ahead and prepare, than to look back and regret.
First, remember that many regrets can be avoided if you make a conscious, concerted effort to avoid making a poor decision in the first place. This involves some reflection (and maybe information gathering or other research, too).
Start by asking (and answering) some hard questions, such as:
- How will this decision affect my relationships with my employees, my colleagues, and my bosses?
- How will this decision affect my career?
- Will my boss be more impressed if I do a mediocre job on many projects or if I achieve outstanding results on a few?
- Is a fun outing with my friends worth being sleep-deprived and cranky (and possibly hung over!) the next morning?
- How much exercise will I have to do in order to burn off that second slice of cake, and is that tradeoff worth it? (For me, the answer to this question depends a lot on what kind of cake we’re talking about: I will happily put in some extra treadmill time for a slice of my mom’s recipe for German chocolate cake!)
There’s no “correct” answer to any of those types of questions. You have to weigh what’s good for you, what’s good for other parties, what you want, and a whole host of issues. Each person does their own unique calculus for each situation.
For some issues there are clear “right” decisions and clear “wrong” decisions, and your choice is clear (and maybe not actually truly yours to make). But when you’re not dealing with a right-or-wrong issue, that’s where things get muddy. Regret often arises from the gray areas, where “right” and “wrong” are defined differently by different parties and interests. Taking the time to carefully consider the issue—and the costs and the benefits associated with it—can help you figure out where on that wide spectrum of gray shades you’d be happiest to land.
Second, once you make a decision, own it. The deed is done and bellyaching about it will get you nowhere. If you do the cost–benefit analysis beforehand and actively decide that action “X” is worth results “Y”, then resolve to live with the consequences of your choices. (Don’t like those consequences? Then resolve to make a different decision at step 1 next time!)
Onward and Upward
Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.
As we get ready to wind down 2021, remember why people like to make New Year’s resolutions: it’s an opportunity to make a fresh start in building new habits and pursuing goals. Think of January 1, 2022, as a clean slate upon which you can inscribe good choices and well-thought-out decisions.
Even though you’ve made mistakes over the past year, resolve to change your behavior and your mindset going forward so that this time next year, you can feel confident about the rightness of your actions and comfortable with their consequences. Let’s make 2022 the year of no regrets!