Will Regret Hold You Back From Your Next Opportunity?

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 A person is not old until their regrets take the place of their dreams. —Proverb

I can’t even count the number of times a client has come into my office reciting all of their missed opportunities as the reason their businesses are not larger, more profitable, or just more enjoyable. Interestingly many of these people have achieved some level of success to the outside world, but theirs minds are often filled with regret about “how much better” it could have been. Many of my clients’ stories revolve around a venture they did not partner in that is now very profitable, a product that they chose not to develop or didn’t think of, or that they should have expanded their technology or sales ability to be more competitive in the current market.

What is so interesting about their stories of regret is that they never have any setbacks or challenges. The story about their road not taken is smooth and flawless, while the story of their life in their current business is often filled with complaints and regrets. Often these clients believe that they missed one of their “big chances” in life, and it causes them a lot of suffering. I call this type of suffering being stuck in a Reverse Maybe. These clients are re-writing a story about what might have been if they had pursued another avenue in their businesses, but they really have no idea what their businesses or lives would have looked like if they had gone that direction.

Sure, they might have been successful, but maybe these other avenues would have been disappointing or stressful in other ways. They might have partnered in a venture and not got along with other investors making it very difficult. They may have expanded to another product line or technology and ran out of capital. We will never know. The twists and turns of that decision might have taken them to other, unexpected places and maybe not for the better at all. All they really know is that everything in their lives has brought them to this moment with the ability to expand and grow their businesses from this point on.

Here are some tips you can use to help resolve your regrets and be able to move forward with your business, work choices or personal life with less suffering and more joy and hope for new opportunities.

1. Identify a few experiences from the past that still make you feel regretful, unhappy or hopeless.

2. Ask yourself the following questions: “Am I absolutely certain that things would be better today if I had made a different decision during that experience?” “How do I know that it wouldn’t have caused me other problems or an outcome I do not want?”

3. Try to acknowledge that Maybe the decision you regret would not have turned out better had you taken a different course, may not have been better for reasons that you can’t even imagine today.

4. In this moment, call to mind the things about your life that you most enjoy and cherish. Have you accomplished things that you are proud of? Do you have personal and business relationships that are meaningful to you? Would they all be in your life today had you made another decision besides the one you are regretting? Maybe your accomplishments or the things you cherish most in your life are with you in the present because of the decisions that you have made.

5. Regardless how you think life would have turned out, repeat the following to yourself: “Within this moment I let go of my regret and embrace the hope that Maybe I can create the life/business I want from this day forward.”

Letting go of regret is like taking a thirty pound bag you are carrying everywhere off your shoulders. It allows you to accept where you are today with more peace and freedom and dream as big as you want for your future!

For all you know, Maybe the best is yet to come!

Do We Cause Our Own Emotional Suffering?

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A few years ago, I submitted an article to a large online magazine. I was friends with one of the editors and thought it would be a great piece for them to publish. Before I submitted it, I spoke to my friend and she seemed a little resistant to the idea of a self-help piece running in the magazine. I told her not to worry about it if it wasn’t a good fit. After I submitted it through my friend, I did not hear from anyone from the magazine for weeks. When I saw my friend, she did not mention it to me and seemed distant and cold. Every time I saw her after I submitted the article she continued to be aloof and I started to be anxious and worried that I had done something to offend her. I went over it in my mind again and again trying to remember what I said and what I did that could have upset her. I was left with the uncertainty of never hearing back from the magazine and my friend avoiding me.

After weeks of suffering with these thoughts I remembered the following Buddhist story:

A hunter is trying to catch a monkey that is stealing food from his town. Even after a very long time of chasing after the monkey, he still had no luck. The monkey was quite clever and would run fast, climb, and jump from tree to tree. The hunter began to feel it was nearly impossible to capture the monkey. Just as the hunter was about to give up, a wise old man gave him some instructions on how to accomplish the task. He was told to get a rope, a coconut, some sugar and some peanuts. Following the old man’s instructions, the hunter cut a portion off the top of the coconut, leaving a small hole in the center just big enough to fit a monkey’s hand. He then placed peanuts with sugar inside the hole and tied the coconut to a tree with the rope. Since it was getting late, he then called it a night and went home to get some rest. The next morning when the hunter woke up, he went to check on his coconut. Just as the old wise man had advised him, the monkey was there, still running around the tree in a circle with his hand stuck inside of the coconut. The monkey had stuck his hand in the coconut to retrieve the sugary peanuts and held them in his fist. Since his fist with the peanuts was bigger than the hole in the coconut, he could not get his hand out and was stuck. If the monkey had been willing to let go of the sweet peanuts and open his hand, then he would’ve been able to remove it from the coconut and run free. The hunter was not actually the one that caught the monkey, because he had been sleeping the whole night. In the end, it was the monkey that imprisoned himself to the tree due to his unwillingness to let go.

The minute I remembered this story I realized it was ME causing all of my suffering – not my friend. I had been feeling emotionally trapped because I never heard back from the online magazine and I perceived my friend as not acting kind and friendly to me. I had wasted hours worrying about it and not being present to the life in front of me. I realized I really could not know what happened with my friend or the magazine and I had no idea what the future had in store. As I let go of what was “in the coconut” I was able to see that Maybe this was for the best, Maybe something else would happen, and Maybe I did nothing wrong and my friend was going through a hard time or was uncomfortable about my having submitted the piece. All I knew is that I had acted professionally and the rest was out of my control.

Sure enough, some time after I let it go, I was at a function and ran into an old friend who asked me to write a piece about my work with Maybe for his online publication which had a huge readership and eventually, my book, The Gift of Maybe, was purchased by Penguin Random House. This experience really highlighted for me even more that all of my suffering had been just my mind holding on to how I thought life should unfold. I find that as I am able to let go of those kinds of pain-inducing thoughts, I open up to all that life has to offer. Interestingly, when my editor friend heard about the new book deal, she called me immediately, offering good wishes. It made me realize that Maybe she had been going through a hard time and her behavior may have had nothing to do with me at all!

So what thoughts are you holding on to that are keeping you stuck with your hand in the coconut? Are you constantly worrying about what your boss or friends thinks about you or how you will become successful in your line of work? How might it feel if you were to just loosen your grasp on whatever is the root of your suffering? It actually will really help if you are able to visualize yourself letting go of what you were grasping for and imagine you are freeing your hand from the proverbial coconut. Or if you are stuck, just say to yourself, “Let go of what is in the coconut.” Either way, the more you do this exercise or mantra, the deeper your understanding will be of the source of your suffering and how to let it go.

You will find that letting go of even one painful thought makes all the difference. Try to remember that there is always Maybe at every turn and there is more than one way to obtain the sweetness of life!

Seeing the Bigger Picture: Life Maybe Better Than You Think

Beautiful gumshoes with flowers inside, isolated on whiteMy daughter came home the other day complaining that a classmate had refused to lend her a charger for her computer. My daughter’s computer was running out of battery but the girl kept insisting that my daughter did not need to borrow her charger. This incident really hurt my daughter and I listened and acknowledged her pain and disappointment. As the conversation continued, my daughter also shared with me that all of the other children in the class had looked around and through their bookbags to see if they had a charger to lend her. She didn’t spend much time on that fact and I let it be for that moment.

For the next few days, my daughter continued to tell me the story about the girl who would not lend her the charger. The fourth time she brought it up, I turned to her and said, “You have been so busy telling me the story about the girl who did not give you the charger, how come we never focus on all of the other children that looked all over the place to try and help you out?” She looked at me and smiled and said, “Yeah, that was pretty nice of everybody to try to help me out. I guess there was more nice in the room than mean.” We both laughed.

Just like my daughter, I often see clients view a problem they are having with a similar perspective. My clients sometimes let one difficult person or a problem with the phone company cloud their entire day with stress and worry. Even though issues like these can give us heartache, there is far less suffering when we make a point to see the bigger picture. Often we fail to see that we have hundreds of interactions each day that don’t cause us aggravation and are working out just fine.

A great analogy is going into a kitchen and only seeing the dirty dishes. Did you ever walk into your kitchen and open the cabinets and admire how many clean dishes there are? When I heard this for the first time, I actually tried it and it made me laugh so hard! I never had entered my kitchen before and acknowledged what is clean. But when I did, nothing else seemed so bad.

So what happens when we acknowledge all the clean dishes in our lives? We stop our hyper-focus on the things that are bothering us and we expand to see the entire vista of our lives. We stop looking just for the faults and also look for what is wonderful and glorious. This is beyond being an optimist instead of a pessimist. It is seeing life in its entirety and acknowledging everything. In fact, often there is so much to be thankful for and we see that so much is going our way.

And for the things that continue to bother us, keep in mind that in every moment there is always Maybe. Life keeps moving and as the winds change direction MAYBE things will work out better than you ever imagined. Just Maybe!!

Positive Thinking For The New Year? Maybe There Is A Better Mindset

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The other day I had lunch with a friend who had just listened to an interview I did about my book, The Gift of Maybe. His response was, “How is the mindset of Maybe different from leaving it up to chance?” I immediately smiled and said, “I bet you are not addicted to certainty.” He laughed and said, “Actually I’m not – I’m a positive thinker. When I was a young I read The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale and that was it for me. Whenever I have a problem or something unexpected comes up, I brush off my shoulders and get back to work.” I responded, “You are very fortunate you have the ability to stay positive in the face of the unknown and I understand why Maybe doesn’t make sense to you. However, many people can’t stay positive in the face of the unexpected and that is why we need Maybe.”

Many of us will make resolutions and set goals for the new year. We may want to start a new business, take a new job, save our money for a new home, get married and much more. In January, some of us will start pursuing these endeavors with hope and a positive outlook. But what happens when life throws us a curveball and something we never expected happens? The economy may change, jobs are lost, business profits dramatically decrease or an important relationship flounders. For my lunch friend, plowing through each of these crises is doable and he is able stay positive and focused. But for many of us the unexpected is extremely painful. When we don’t see the results that we hoped for we become overwhelmed with worry and get stressed that things won’t work out or will get even worse. We simply cannot hold on to a positive outlook in the face of an uncertain future. Because of this, some of us will give up our dreams too soon or we will endure tremendous stress and worry.

But there is hope for those of us who struggle with uncertainty; there is Maybe. Maybe is a mindset that reminds us to acknowledge that, for every situation we experience, there are numerous ways it may resolve. Within these many possibilities, Maybe there is a chance a situation that we are facing will work out well or Maybe we will find a new solution or Maybe we will be all right no matter what happens. The essence of “Maybe” or “what may be” contains the hope within uncertainty.

With Maybe we can hold on to our resolutions and goals and just find new ways to achieve them. Maybe we can still find that new job even though a few months have gone by, Maybe we can find new ways to increase our business profit and Maybe we can work on our relationships to make them better. With the idea of Maybe we can stay calm and open because we have the realization that life can unfold in many ways and we are not stuck or doomed because the answer is not clear in the moment. We are not just “leaving things to chance” but instead we are expanding our minds to embrace all that can be. In turn, Maybe shows us more opportunities to find the life for which we long.

So makes those New Year’s Resolutions and set those goals. Just remember to say Maybe!