How To Live Life With No Regrets

You’ll often hear me talk about turning towards a feeling. Because this process can be really helpful when we’re feeling one of the so-called negative feelings of anger, sadness, fear, shame or guilt.

(For a full recap on how to turn towards a feeling click here

The first thing we need to do is identify the feeling.
Then turn towards it and express that feeling.

And we do that so that the feeling doesn’t dominate us.

Because as you turn towards it, the feeling will dissipate. Which means it no longer controls you. And that’s a great thing.

But that brings up the bigger question.

What do you do when you’re in a situation that won’t allow you to turn towards the feeling?

(Say for example you’re in a situation that requires you to respond quickly – like speaking up in public, or asking the boss for a raise and you’re in the middle of the discussion).

What do you do when you don’t have time to do this process?

The question then becomes Will I let this feeling affect my behaviour?

Am I going to behave the way I want to behave and the feeling can just be the feeling?

Or am I going to let the feeling get the better of me?

Here’s a classic example.

I was talking to a client the other day, just recently a single dad, and he was saying that one of his big struggles at this stage of his life is approaching women in his age-group and establishing a conversation.

The modern day version of the old, is a boy going to walk across the dance floor and ask a girl to dance?

But this guy wasn’t at the dance hall anymore. Instead he was talking about being at the beach or the shops or a café. And he was afraid to go and talk to an attractive woman because of his fear of rejection and recent pain.

There’s all sorts of stuff in our background around getting the approval of others. So why do we want the approval of other people?

It’s because we don’t have enough of our own. And it goes something like this…

Since I’m not willing to approve of myself, how about you do it? How about you do it publicly so I can hear it? If I can get enough of you to approve of me, I might like myself.

But it doesn’t matter how many followers you have on FB or other people who approve of you. It won’t count, because there’s one missing.

Thankfully the approval that you can give yourself can happen at any time. As long as you’re willing to have a go.

So I said to this client, “If you’re at the beach, you’ve got all day to process that feeling… As you notice that fear, you can stand there. You might be twenty metres away from this attractive woman, and you can process the feeling. You can say to yourself, ‘What am I feeling? Where is it? What shape is it? What colour is it?’ and do that whole routine.

But the reality is you’re either going to go and speak to that woman or not.

Let’s say that you give into the fear and you don’t go and speak to her. What that means is that you’re sitting at the beach full of regret about not finding the courage to do what you wanted to do.

What you’re doing is reacting to the fear.”

When we react to something it’s actually determining what we’re going to do. And this guy’s reaction to the fear is to try to make the fear go away.

And what’s the quickest way to make the fear go away?

Don’t ask the girl.

Instead, sit back down and pretend that he’s interested in catching a wave, reading his book, doing whatever it takes to make the fear go away by not approaching the girl.

But this choice of action creates long-term regret.

Once he finishes reading the book and goes home, at some point he realises, or he becomes aware, that he didn’t do what he wanted to do. He didn’t rise to the challenge. He did something he feels regretful about. And that feeling will go on for the rest of his life.

So what’s the alternative?

Well as I said before, one thing to do is to stand there at the beach and process the feeling. Anytime we turn towards a feeling and process it, that feeling will then dissipate.

But another thing that you could do is to say, “I’m scared. I’m aware that I‘m scared, but what do I need to do? What do I want to do?” “I want to approach this girl.”

“Yeah, but I’m too scared,” is actually the wrong conversation to have with yourself.

What works better is “I want to approach this girl despite the fact that I’m scared.”

Focus on the action.


So he goes and approaches the woman.

She says, “Go away, you’re annoying me.”

He goes off and sits on the beach and reads his book. And what he can do is he can celebrate the fact that he made the attempt, that he went through the difficulty, and the girl was busy. The girl was not interested. So what?

If he goes through with it, what he’ll see is that it’s not about him.

A certain percentage of girls are interested, and a certain percentage are not.

Who’s he to be fooling around with that based on, “I’m frightened.”

(In the military they say “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is acting despite the fear.” People in wartime get a Victoria Cross for acts of bravery. The bravery comes from doing something that they figured was the right thing to do even though they were scared for their life).

So the easiest way to approach a girl on the beach is to walk up and say, “Hey I’m really scared of talking to you.”

That gets it out into the open.

And that’s exactly what this guy did. He told me “The other day, there I was, I was about to approach this girl and …” He used exactly this line. He said, “Look, I might be interrupting … but I want to tell you that I’m nervous as anything.”

And then he said, “How are you going?”
She said, “I’m doing great. How are you?”

And then he said, “Do you mind if I sit down and we chat?”
She responded, “That would be great.”

They got to chatting, and went for a coffee, and what he told me was that her response to him admitting his fear was to respect and admire how brave he was in speaking to her.

They hit it off like a house on fire.

Now I’m not saying that having courage and doing what you need to do means it’s always going to go like a house on fire. She could equally have said, “Listen, rack off. Get out of my space. I don’t want to know you.”

What we’re talking about is who’s going home with a degree of self-respect.

Don’t place your self-worth on your results. Your value as a human being is not connected to the results you generate. It’s connected to the effort that you made. It’s connected to the willingness and the desire to have a go. 90% of the world is not prepared to have a go. It’s not about gaining the respect of other people. It’s about gaining the respect of yourself.

The victory is in doing what is true to your values, rather than reacting to your emotions.

Because your emotions come and go.

So really it all boils down to this…

“I am scared,” is not the truth.
“I am experiencing a lot of fear in this moment,” is the truth.

When I say, “I am angry,” that determines my entire being.
When I say, “I’m experiencing anger”, I’m acknowledging that anger is a feeling that could (and will) pass by.

You can make decisions about your behaviour independent of how you feel. It’s only when our emotions tend to rule us that it becomes a problem.

So when you don’t have time to go through the technique of processing the emotion, acknowledge how you feel and then get on with what you really want to do.