For a large portion of my life, I’ve advocated the idea that the only true failure is not trying. The motto is intended to position a failure or misstep as a learning experience, brave, or something like that. But I am considering the possibility I might have used this motto to protect myself from feeling the failure, from owning my part and truly learning.
There is a difference between having no regrets and having a guiding principle to live without regrets. To believe you have no regrets is to believe you’ve never lived outside of your values or played a role in your failures.
Regret is a call to reflection. Recognizing regret is recognizing there is something to be learned, messes to be cleaned up, and opportunities to live more courageously.
Brene Brown writes,
“If there is one thing failure has taught me, it is the value of regret. Regret is one of the most powerful emotional reminders that change and growth are necessary. In fact, I’ve come to believe that regret is a kind of package deal: A function of empathy, it’s a call to courage and a path toward wisdom.”
To acknowledge our failures and wrestle with our regrets does not mean we have to take them on as who we are. I failed and I am a failure are not the same. I am a failure leaves no room for change or growth. I failed acknowledges things didn’t go like you’d have liked them to and by wading out into the muck of regret we are able to get present to our part in the failure, the stories we are telling ourselves about it, and how we want to show up differently next time.
When you deny your regrets, anxieties, and fears you are ignoring your body’s way of reminding you it’s time for reflection. Living into your best self requires living a reflective life.