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No regrets - Beazley H.

Beazley H. No regrets - Wiley publishing , 2004. - 234 p.
ISBN 0-471-21295-4
Download (direct link): noregrets2004.pdf
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With extreme thinking, our failure is total when we make a mistake or
miss an opportunity. With no second chance, we have no way to correct our errors, no way out of our problems. We are trapped. When Chen’s girlfriend broke up with him, he told himself and others, “I’ll never get married now.” Such all-or-nothing thinking deepens and prolongs the regrets we hold. In Chen’s case, that unrealistic thought pattern made his regret over the breakup much worse—and more desperate. In addition to making regrets more severe, all-or-nothing thinking can create new regrets as well—regrets of omission—if it prevents us from trying again, from taking advantage of the second chance.
When everything is perceived as black and white, all-or-nothing, there is little room for forgiveness or compassion. We miss the nuances of our options, the subtleties of our opportunities, and the complexities of our decisions that explain our mistakes or offer us another chance. We are sadly shortchanged by what we think cannot be altered or can never happen.
Which, if any, of your regrets are supported by extreme thinking? Using Regrets as Justification for Inaction
Certain thought patterns, carried to an extreme, provide the excuse we’re looking for to avoid taking action to improve our lives. “If only such-and-such had happened,” we tell ourselves and others, we wouldn’t have to: go back to college, start dating again, find another job, quit smoking, restrict our spending, or do countless other things that we don’t want to do. Instead of taking action, we lament the past. Whatever change is required, we tell ourselves, can’t be made now because it had to have been made then, at the time of the regret. We claim that we are too old for college, that we don’t have the time with a family and a job, or that we can’t afford it. Rather than seek a second job to get us out of debt, we complain that we are overqualified for the part-time jobs available or that we shouldn’t have to take such a job, and that we wouldn’t have to, “if only ...”
The justifications we use for inaction excuse our failure to exert the effort, exercise the discipline, or overcome the fear that the achievement of our goals demands. These justifications fuel our fantasy that “if only” things had been different, we would be happier and more successful than
we are today. We are confident, for example, that “If only I had been born with as much money as my cousin, I would be as successful.” Perhaps, and perhaps not. It is painful to admit that we might not have been as successful as our point of comparison even ifwe had been born with as much money. Or that we might not have a better job even ifwe had gone to college. Or that the marriage that failed was not our spouse’s fault but ours (or ours as well). Or that regardless of what happened in the past, we would still find ourselves having to address the present and the challenges it brings.
The suffering we endure from holding onto our regrets through inaction is far greater than the suffering we would experience in letting them go and facing the reality of the present with all of its challenges, opportunities, and potentiality. Yet the seductive “benefit” of doing nothing calls to us, suggesting that it is more comfortable to give into the past and its failures than to act in the present, with all its promises. In the dreamy, do-nothing world of regretting, we can be confident that everything would have worked out, if only . . .
Two forms of toxic thought patterns that are often used as justification for inaction are habitual complaining and playing the role of the perpetual victim.
Habitual Complaining
Some of us have raised complaining to an art. It is the primary focus of our conversations and the center of our lives. Regrets that we can link to life’s injustices, to destructive behavior aimed at us, or to unfair deprivations we’ve had to endure give us something to complain about regularly, whether to ourselves or to others. Perhaps we hold an infantile hope that if we complain enough, our “parents” (in whatever form) will relieve our complaints and make us happy. Then we won’t have to accept that responsibility for ourselves. Or perhaps we enjoy making others unhappy as a sign of our power, or perhaps focusing every conversation on us and our regrets satisfies our self-centeredness. To give up our regrets would mean giving up our complaints and hence the way we relate to the world. It isn’t easy to stop complaining about the past when such complaining has become a way of life. But it is possible.
Jenny is an example of a chronic complainer. She complains to herself, to her friends, and to her children about many things. But her chief complaint is her ex-husband, whom she blames for her present unhappiness and the desperate financial condition she faces. If only he hadn’t divorced her, she tells herself and those who will listen, if only he had left her well off financially, or if only he had made it possible for her to earn a decent living. This regret of her failed marriage is the centerpiece of her life. It brings her some measure of sympathy, gives her energy when she gets angry about it, and allows her to complain bitterly about life’s injustices and the viciousness of her ex-husband. Her constant complaining also substitutes for action—for doing something to improve her situation, such as increasing her earning capacity or changing a negative attitude that drives people away. Jenny’s habitual complaining and the inaction it seems to justify keep her tied to her regrets. She remains focused on the past, which she is helpless to change, instead of living in the present where change is still possible.
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