I have never found regret to be a useful emotion. It’s tough to learn from regret and it prevents forward movement. If you can work yourself up to something a little stronger, like guilt or remorse, there may be some positive benefits – a necessary apology, or a change in behavior or a different approach for next time.
As Frank said, “Regrets? I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” I was able to figure something out when I practiced law and while not perfected, it has allowed me to lessen some of the kinds of regrets I hear too many people experiencing. Perhaps this is because of some really high self esteem but I like to hallucinate that it’s mainly because of a fairly regular values inventory.
We get our values from experience, family, role models, and various cultural/media messages. For the most part, they remain outside of our conscious awareness. Our values often change with context, age, and experience but I believe that people are happiest and most successful when they are able to establish “bedrock” values that aren’t contextual.
In some of my recent work with police officers I was interested in their answers in response to questions about their values. Like many of us, they hadn’t given too much thought to their personal values or to the values that are important to police work. In this line of work, if your personal values don’t line up/aren’t congruent with those of your job, the consequences can be extreme. It was a good discussion and the conversation was more honest and robust than it could have ever been with the board members and many senior staff at Boys & Girls Harbor.
Some of the questions I asked them are the questions I have asked myself at different times in my professional life:
- What’s really important to you?
- What motivates you to do what you do at work and for your family?
- What things, people, experiences do you feel you can’t live without?
- What do you get most excited about? When?
- In what areas of your life do you refuse to compromise?
After you answer these questions, ask yourself, “Do I live these answers?” Understand that when you don’t, you pay a price. It’s too simple to be described by single words but since we live in the land of McDonald’s, here are a list of some values that serve as my bedrock:
These aren’t in order of importance. Another interesting exercise is to rank them. Send me a comment or email if you want a post on this. What I do know, is that there was a conflict between my bedrock values and the people who were calling the shots at my job. I am grateful that they brought me back to awareness and I thank you all for joining me on my latest adventure.
Write me with examples in your life when your values came into conflict with the living (not espoused) values of your job.