Stumbling Blocks to Success: Worry and Regret

If you were to ask me if I have a personal philosophy, I’d probably answer that I’ve never given it much thought. But if push came to shove, I would probably have to say that it is: Don’t waste your time worrying about the future or regretting the past. I want to spend some time today talking about each of these mental processes that can create stumbling blocks to your success—either in finding a job or in succeeding in your career.

When I suggest that you not waste your time worrying about the future, I’m not suggesting that you ignore the future. You do need to make plans: think through the steps that you want to take to reach your goals and to avoid possible pitfalls. Planning for the future is a crucial activity. But that’s a lot different than worrying. Worrying is obsessing about all the things that might go wrong and allowing those possibilities to keep you from acting. You can’t control everything in your future: “stuff happens.” However, careful planning, combined with anticipating and preparing for predictable pitfalls, will ensure that you’re ready to face obstacles as they arise and make progress toward your goals. . .and it will help you sort out and prioritize those goals.

Regretting the past is another waste of time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about and learn from the mistakes you’ve made and the things that have gone wrong. The problem with regret is that it can make you fearful. You can develop an attitude of avoiding risks or new things because once (or two or three times) when you did take a risk or try something new, it didn’t work out as you had hoped. When things don’t go your way, figure out what went wrong and make a plan so it doesn’t happen again. And, as with planning for the future, keep in mind that “stuff happens” that’s beyond your control, and there’s no point in regretting a situation which you didn’t cause.

I’d already decided what I wanted to write about today when I got one of those email messages from LinkedIn with a list of articles that someone thought I’d want to read. One of them was relevant to this topic: “Best advice: Enjoy the journey” was posted to LinkedIn by Chester Elton. The basic theme of his advice is that you need to make sure you keep track of the good things along with the bad. Don’t focus on all that’s wrong (with your job, or your life, or the world), but instead try to balance the recognition that things could be better by appreciating what’s worked out well.

Celebrate the wins and learn from the losses.