My Favourite Failures, Lesson Four

I could keep going on and on about my failures. In fact, this entire weekly email subscription you’ve signed up for could be just about failures. Failed photos, failed business decisions. Failed relationships. Failing to be patient with Lanny or our kids. Big failures. Little failures. Failure will inevitably come up again and again in this newsletter. But, it’s time to tie a bow around the subject for the time being. This bow is not a pretty red shiny bow. It’s tattered and frayed, barely held together by a few stray fibers.

In this final installment on the topic of failure, I’m going to talk about regretting our failures. The act of regretting. It’s a negative emotion that’s different than disappointment. According to Brené Brown, “With disappointment, we often believe the outcome was out of our control. With regret, we believe the outcome was caused by our decisions or actions.” Regret doesn’t feel good. It’s one of the strongest human emotions. But, if you think about Brené’s sentence above, it’s WAY more transformational than disappointment, if we let it be.

I hate the feeling of regret so much that I have gone to great lengths to try to avoid the feeling. For example, I have never in my life wanted to go skydiving. The thought of it makes my hands sweat, elevates my heart rate, and sends me into a panic. So, when my friend Andrew told me he got us tickets to go skydiving, I should have politely declined, knowing (in my core) that I had zero interest in going. But instead, I was afraid I would regret not going. I talked to many people, hoping they would talk me out of it, but instead, I was met with statements like, “You only live once!” or “On the other side of fear, is bliss!” (Thanks Will Smith.) I had to put myself into a state of hypnosis to jump out of that plane. I’m not speaking in hyperbole here. For the entire day leading up to the jump, I alternated between states of complete panic and deep hypnotic breathing. I employed all of the skills that I learned for birthing two children. Thank goodness I had them. I kept my eyes closed and focused only on counting my breaths for the entire plane ride reaching altitude. I jumped out of the plane with my eyes closed. The skydiving instructors (all of them), said they were certain that I would NOT do it. But, I did. Not, however, because I wanted to, but because I was scared of feeling regret. That’s how powerful my fear of regret can feel. Side note: I will never go skydiving again. I didn’t enjoy one millisecond of it. The true irony of this story is that I actually kinda regret going (Yes, Andrew knows). I would have much preferred going for a run in the woods. If you really want to see how, um-hum, “fun,” (NOT) it was, you can watch me here.

In a recent interview, we were asked the time-old question, “What’s your biggest regret?” I had a really hard time coming up with an answer on the spot. Not because I don’t have them, but because regret, when it happens, seems to be something I quickly sweep under the carpet, reframe into something positive, or flat-out ignore. Furthermore, I am terrified of the feeling of regret. I have taken the catchphrase “no regrets” quite literally (as illustrated in the story above). Even though I would argue that this is not a healthy way to live.

I am trying to become more intimate with my regrets. Realize that regrets are better teachers than just disappointment. Disappointment is ‘easier’ to feel, but way less productive. Regrets are like my Grade 11 English teacher. Really tough, super unlikable, someone you try to avoid walking past in the hallways, but holy hell, did my writing ever improve in her class. Regret is one of the best teachers. If we listen to them, they speak of our inner truths that are at odds with our outward behaviors. Listening to our regrets may lead us to a state of our most true integrity.

So, in answering that question: “What is my biggest regret?” I don’t have one biggest one, per se. I have hundreds, thousands, millions of them. But, it’s really impossible to measure them by size in terms of biggest and smallest.

My most recent regret is how I spent hours last week arguing with aggressive gun-loving Americans on our Instagram account. That should have been an automatic block. Instead, I gave away four hours of my life I will never get back. The lesson? I can’t change anyone’s mind on social media in the comments section. It’s not a productive way to spend my time.

What is one thing you regret today, right this moment? And what are you going to let it teach you?

Love, Erika

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