Don’t be a hostage of your past, become a driver of your future, says Carole Spiers

Years ago, I remember listening to Emily, a 70-year-old woman being interviewed on the radio. She had just arrived back in the UK after her marathon ascent of Mount Everest, Earth’s highest mountain located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. I recall her last words which stuck in my mind:

‘For many years, my biggest regret revolved around missing out on life. I seemed to be living everyone else’s life and not my own. I was either too young or too old. It wasn’t the right time to do something – either too early or too late. Either way, it didn’t happen, and I have ended up having many regrets in my life. So, I decided then, at the age of 70 years old, that climbing Mount Everest wasn’t going to be another one!’


We all have regrets – those lost opportunities and possibilities that may have turned up on our doorstep but then we let them go. We were either too busy to seize the opportunity or didn’t think it was the right time to take advantage of them. Whatever the reason, the point is that we let them go by, and then it was too late to go back or start all over again.

And because we find it difficult to accept the feelings of regret, we end up denying them to both ourselves and to those around us. We tell ourselves it is not really a regret that we didn’t accept that new job offer or take on more responsibility. We tend to focus on the choice that we made and tell ourselves that it was the right one because we don’t want to admit the fact that we may have made a mistake. We are fully able to justify our decision.

Let us accept that we have all felt regret at some point in our lives. Some of you are feeling it right now and are suffering because of it. Something did, or did not, happen the way you wanted it. You did, or didn’t, do something the way you wish you had. And you want more than anything to be able to rewind time and do things differently. But you cannot, because decisions made in the past are usually irrevocable.

As much as you try to free yourself from this mindset, you don’t seem to be able to let go of these feelings. But it is important to do so, as they will stop you from moving on in the future. When you are consistently looking behind you, you may not notice what is right in front of you. And when that happens, the chances are that you will miss other opportunities and experience still more regrets in the future.

All of us go through a time in our lives when we see the consequences of our past decisions – some good, some bad. Whilst most of us have still many years ahead of us to start over again, there are paths that we may wish we had not taken in the first place.

Regrets can be difficult to deal with. They will often leave us feeling helpless, down and sometimes unable to move forward. But a lot of times, the best way to deal with difficulties is to examine them, take the learning that came from them, then let them go – forever.

So, What Can You Do About It?

  • Face your regrets head on. Instead of being a hostage of your past, become a driver of your future.
  • Secondly, let your regrets make you into a stronger person – someone who has learnt, the hard way, the consequences of making wrong decisions.
  • Thirdly, focus on the positive things that have taken place together with the insights gained along the way.

We all make mistakes. Wrong decisions can be painful, but we need to face them, then move on. Those who accept their errors and don’t repeat them become stronger.

Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE is a leading international Business Stress Consultant and currently serves as the Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK (ISMAUK). On their behalf, she founded Stress Awareness Day ... (Read More)

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