From Career Regret to Reinvention: How to Move Past Pain & Design Your Ideal Career

From Career Regret to Reinvention: How to Move Past Pain & Design Your Ideal Career

In 1995 there was a man living in Liverpool who played the same set of lottery numbers every week. One week, when he failed to renew his ticket, his numbers came in. His distress over losing what he thought was millions of dollars (a fact he actually ended up being wrong about), was so unbearable that he committed suicide.

That is real regret. The kind of regret that happens when we see the difference between how a situation is and how it could have been had we made a different choice.

Imagine if you were offered a trip back in time so you can undo your biggest regret. If you could live your life all over again, what’s the one thing you would do differently?

When I ask myself that question, the words shoot out of my mouth without even thinking: my educational and career choices.

It turns out I’m not alone. In the book If Only, author Neale J. Roese, Ph.D., cites a series of studies conducted by independent researchers who were interested in finding out what adults consider their biggest regrets. During the period of 1989–-2003, adults of all ages were asked the questions: If you could go back and live your life all over again, what would you do differently? What parts of your life would you change? With eleven studies in all, the researchers discovered that the following four regrets appear consistently at the top of the list, in this order, in study after study.

  • Education: 32 percent%
  • Career: 22 percent
  • Intimacy: 15 percent%
  • Parenting: 11 percent%

This is not so say that the majority of people are unhappy and full of regret. Rather, these are the areas where people see the most need (and room) for improvement.

In the studies, the researchers learned that when it came to regretting a career choice, sometimes the regret focused on wishing they had made the kind of choices that would have led them to have a better career, and other times it was focused on wishing they had spent less time on their career, primarily because it impacted intimacy and parenting, two other top-of-the-list regrets. Education and career were closely tied together in the results, as most people wished they had paid more attention in school or had chosen a different educational path, because of how those choices ended up impacting their career.

Career choice can be a particularly long-lasting regret. This is partly because there are so many decisions that make up our career story (everything from choosing a major in college to accepting our first job after we graduate from school). So, when a career doesn’t turn out like we wanted it to we can identify various points along the road where we could have taken a turn better suited to us and we didn’t. That’s hard to swallow. It’s also a fairly blurry regret because when it comes to our careers it’s never just about picking between two clear paths, it’s usually about figuring out a way through a maze full of possible options. I suspect this is why people love career tests: They want to be told there is a single best path, or at least a best two or three, so that their chances of choosing a good fit significantly increase. We don’t like to get our lives wrong.

It’s possible that you have some regrets about choices you have made in the past that you believe are preventing you from moving forward. Possibly you hear yourself saying to yourself:

  • I have no idea what I want to do and I clearly made the wrong choice before so what makes me think I’ll get it right this time?
  • It’s too late to go for what I really want now.
  • I guess I just have to live with my mistakes.
  • If only I could have a do over.

Some people believe it’s best to live with no regrets. I’m not sure if that’s even possible. Even if it were, to do so would be to miss out on valuable information, new insight, countering points of view, and new ways of looking at old facts. “If only this, then that” kind of thinking is actually good for you. At least it can be, if you use it to your advantage rather than marinating in it to the point where you feel stewed in overwhelm.

The truth is we gain meaning and are propelled into action by identifying and naming the alternative choices we’ve made that may not have turned out like we planned. To deny regret is to miss a chance for growth and to make a better choice next time.

When it comes to regret, there are two main ways of reacting to a problem.

  1. Change the situation
  2. Change your mind

When we opt for changing the situation, we take steps to create a better outcome: We go back to school, we build a network, we reach out to people, we research, we apply for jobs, and we start our own business, and so on. We also act quickly.

When we decide to reframe it and change our minds, we rework the situation in our minds so that it no longer seems as bad.

From Fear to Architect: Changing the Situation

My friend Scott took a big risk when he decided to make a career change. In his early twenties Scott graduated from college with a degree in engineering, and then worked in a variety of different jobs in his field. All he really wanted to do however was be an architect and do his own thing. He dreamed about it and talked to people about it, but every time he talked to architects they told him how impossible the field is to succeed in. They told him how long it would take him to go from grunt worker to practicing architect, and that the road was thankless, exhausting, and lacked significant monetary rewards, considering all of the work it required of them.

For seven years he listened to that. For seven years he told himself his dream wasn’t going to happen. For seven years he told himself that he could not afford it, he and his wife couldn’t survive without his income, and they’d never recover if he pursued it.

And for seven years all he could think about was becoming an architect and how much he regretted listening to the naysayers instead of himself.

One day, after imagining himself doing the work he was doing for the rest of his life, he decided that he didn’t care what the “experts” said and that if he didn’t go after what he wanted he would regret it for the rest of his life. He decided to change his situation.

He attended an Ivy League architecture school. He graduated, worked at the school for a couple of years after graduation, and recently he was offered a job at a dream firm doing the work he has always imagined. He and his wife live in a tiny apartment in New York City, he gets excited when he comes home to Boulder, Colorado, because he can get a good shot of tequila for only $20, and if you ask him about his work, his entire face will light up like the Fourth of July.

I have heard a hundred stories like this in researching this topic. The stories of “I can’t do this because . . .” have common threads, which are paralyzing and uninspiring. The magic happens when, for whatever reason, a person realizes the regret is too big to bear and that the story about why she can’t change the situation is old and stale and doesn’t work anymore. She decides that she wants the dream career more than she wants to live with the regret that will only be diluted by harnessing the power of it to get into action.

From Career Hopper to Writer: Changing Your Mind

Seven years ago I hung my shingle out for the first time as a solo entrepreneur. I was excited and I had big ideas of what I was going to do.

I had spent 13 years prior to that career hopping like it was an Olympic sport, and working as a teacher, a counselor and an athletic coach. I had earned two master’s degrees and had completed a teacher education and licensure program. I had served a year for AmeriCorps in undeserved schools and had counseled a variety of different populations from incest victims and juvenile offenders, to runaways, gifted adolescents, underprivileged high school students, girls struggling with eating disorders, career changers and more.

And throughout all of that time I was always an “on the side” writer, taking every writing gig I could get.

My goal with my new business was to write about careers and help people make the switch to do the work they loved.

I had the training, I had the experience and I had a deep love of talking to people on everything related to career.

But that wasn’t enough.

I struggled to get enough clients and my income for that first year was abysmal. I loved the work, but I didn’t love the struggle or living my life in the red.

So I began spending every waking moment studying business, marketing, copywriting and sales and everything else you need to know to make a business profitable. I started applying it to my business and I was having really good success. Before I knew it people were asking me to help them. They wanted help marketing and copywriting and shifting their mindset – all things I had done to grow my business. And they were willing to pay me a lot of money to do it. So much money in fact that pretty soon my career coaching business was a thing of the past and I spent my time as a full time copywriter and marketing consultant.

The problem was that I had set myself up to be unhappy in my work by designing a business that required me to do work I didn’t like and I couldn’t see a way out.

I wanted to be a writer. Period. Instead, I was a marketing consultant who again wrote “on the side”. There was nothing wrong with that work, and I am actually quite good at it, but it just wasn’t the best fit for me. But, I was so convinced that I couldn’t make money writing full time that I kept moving further and further away from my dream…and regretting every moment of it.

I wasn’t able to break out of that business until I changed my mind about what was possible for me. Once I did that, however, the shift was so dramatic and I had so much clarity about what actions I wanted to take that I saw everything in a new light.

After I made that switch, I wrote a book, I began working with clients who were a better fit for me, and I dug full time into a writing business that brings me an immeasurable amount of joy.

When I look back and try to figure out how I could have been so seduced by the money that I was willing to put all of the work I really loved doing on the back burner, I think my desire for safety (money) and my desire to do interesting work that made me giddy with joy just kept duking it out and money kept winning.

Two beliefs had to rise to the top before I was going to allow my situation to change.

  1. I had to reconnect with my values and my beliefs about doing crazy good work.
  2. I had to believe that if I just stuck with the work I loved (writing), and focused on contributing the very best of who I am and the very best of my work to my field of interest (career), that I could achieve the highest level with it. Safety would be a byproduct of that focus, not the driving force behind my actions.

Now that I have set up my business so that writing comes first people ask me if I regret all of the time I spent “off track.”

For a while I did. I was frustrated and angry, and I would often say to myself, Imagine how much further along you’d be if you had just stayed with it and not gone down the rabbit hole. But that was wasteful energy, especially when I think about all of the good things that came from my detour.

  • I was immersed in the world of business and online marketing for six years, I helped clients double and triple their income and learned so much that I can apply to my business and use to help my clients. Whether they want to start a business or need help creating a compelling online presence, I have a lot to offer. I love having problems to solve. When it comes to marketing ideas, I never seem to run out. My entrepreneurial clients love that.
  • I made some fantastic friends in the online marketing space, created cool programs, spoke at interesting events, and hosted unique and game changing retreats for women entrepreneurs. In fact, some of my dearest friends in the world right now are the ones I made while doing that work. When I think about what my life would be like without them I would take that detour again any day.
  • Going through all of this has given me a surplus of tools I can share with my clients who are trying to reinvent themselves and their careers.
  • I now have a tremendous amount of patience for people who feel stuck, people who want to make a change and can’t see their way through. I always had the training and hundreds of hours working with clients who were trying to find their ideal career or place in the world to draw on; however, having now gone through a similar experience myself adds texture I would not have had otherwise.

So, when it comes to regret the goal then is to accept regret as part of our journey and then move past our regrets by identifying the ones that may be holding us back, looking deeper into how we describe them to ourselves, and acting quickly to change the situation. Here’s a simple process you can follow to do that.

A 4 Step Process for Moving Past Career Regret

Step 1: Take out a blank piece of paper or open your journal and write down every “if only” that comes to mind when you reflect on the path your career has taken.

Example: “If only I had done this than thisnever would have happened.”

Example: “I chose blank when I should have chosen blank.”

Step 2. Now that you have made a list of all of the “if onlys” in your mind, you are ready to look deeper into the regrets to see how there was more than one way the event in question happened. Respond to the following on your paper: How might your situation have turned out worse if you had chosen the other path? How have you used comparisons to other people to allow the regret to grow? How could you reframe your regret, or what can you do right away, to show yourself that changing your situation is far more important to you than hanging on to your regret? How will you know when you’ve truly let go of the regret?

Step 3. The great thing about regret is that within that emotion exists a backlog of lessons that we’ve likely learned without even being conscious about it. Next, contemplate all of the perceived negative outcomes you’ve experienced throughout your career. Maybe you were fired or demoted, maybe you really wanted a job but weren’t offered the position, maybe you were offered the job but turned down the offer and then wished you hadn’t. Write down what happened and then find the lesson and how you took that lesson into other areas of your life and you used it to your benefit.

Step 4. Now let’s turn your every “If only” into a “Now I”. Whatever regret you have, whatever “if only” statement has been holding you back, pretend that it no longer has the control. You do. Now is what matters. Use your regret as a springboard for further action. Research your options, but don’t get stuck there. Act quickly. Hurl yourself headfirst into the unknown and don’t be so worried about getting it right that you stop yourself. Concern yourself only with who you are today, in this moment, and act from that place. If you do something and it turns out badly then you’ll still be better off. Not so if you leave a situation undone.

Make a plan for how you are going to move beyond your regret and then do it right away. The most successful people are those who kick themselves the hardest after they make mistakes and get over their intense regret faster than anyone else. After that, they take immediate action. Those are the people who trade in worry about how it could have been for careers that fit who they are today and are ultimately able to reinvent their careers without the baggage of regret slowing them down.

Photo by Victor Bezrukov

Melani Ward

Melani Ward is a bad ass writing ninja warrior who writes about the psychological hurdles that keep people from fixing their career and their life and offers suggestions on how to overcome them. She also uses her mad writing skills to help other people bring their great work to life. You can receive the “Five Crazy Letters I Wrote When My Career Was Falling Apart & the Strategy I Used to Get Back on Track by clicking here.

41 Comments

  1. Bravo! Very inspiring. Theres nothing worse than feeling stuck doing something that’s paying the bills but sucks the life out of you. Great article.

    Reply
  2. LOVE this article! As someone who has an engineering background and is now doing social media marketing (and maybe not done making switches yet) I love the reinvention without regrets message. We have to choose our careers so young and many times with too much input from our parents and not enough real-world experience.

    Thank you Melani for nudging others to make this leap into the unknown and giving the encouragement that all will work out in the end. And thank you for being a great friend and mentor! xoxo

    Reply
    • Thanks Andrea!

      I’ve loved watching your path and you’ve done so much just since you changed careers that I’m sure any switch you ever make, if you do, will be a success.

      Melani

      Reply
  3. Great post Melani. When I read this article, it sounds like these were all necessary steps to where you are today. It doesn’t sound like you should have any regret at all!

    Reply
    • Thanks Cody!

      It took me a while to live as though I’m not my past. Now I relish the opportunity to blow it because that means I’m living:)

      Reply
  4. One thing I find is it’s easy to dwell on the possible injustices of the past without doing anything about them. Your post challenges us to turn these around and face the future.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Thanks Peter!

      I always have to remind myself to take action on the thoughts that pass my mind. It’s an ongoing practice to live for now and embrace the future instead of getting caught in what used to be.

      Melani

      Reply
  5. Great blog. I am in the midst of this now – changing my life. I don’t necessarily have regrets, but I am tired of doing the same old thing. I have written 2 short ebooks and have more to write on a particular passion that I studied while working all those straight jobs. Now I just need to get a website up and get my books out there. (I liked that you spoke of writing) All the naysayers just want me to get another straight job and even if I do to fund this project – the project is my ultimate goal.
    Thanks for the blog.
    Mary

    Reply
    • Congrats on your passion work Mary. I have found over the past seven years that I have done plenty of “side hustles” to fund the projects I care about most. More and more they seem to be catching up with each other.

      Best to you on your new path!

      Melani

      Reply
  6. Wow! This is a quite a timely article for me as I have been stuck in regret for a while in terms of my career and education choices. In the past few weeks though I pulled myself out of the quicksand filled rabbit hole and am stepping into the career/education I’ve always wanted. Love the change of what it to now I. As always, you have challenged my way of thinking. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Thanks Julie,
      I love the career reinvention process, no matter how often it shows up, because it always helps us to become more of who we really are. Your new direction is certainly doing that for you and all of the people you touch are going to benefit tremendously from it.

      Melani

      Reply
  7. I cannot believe this example above about being focused on business and really being happy writing in the end … it is my story. I was steered towards University, did it, worked my way + paid my way via work, on course for a successful business career. Almost 40 and I am not even near wanting to do what I was, a suit n tie is horrific. The culture of corporate greyness still brings on negative emotions. Pavlov. I wish I was a marine Biologist, or working with animals … outside. Some say a Doctor. I am not good at math. I would be both. On paper, accredited. Otherwise, I still am waiting for it to happen even though I know I need to get up and make it happen. Stuck.

    Reply
    • Hi Stuck:)

      I so relate to that. When I’ve been stuck and feel like I can’t control a situation I take one small step.

      It’s not too late:)

      Melani

      Reply
      • thanks Mel, I know there are many people in my boat too. I also suffer from chronic pain due to spinal issues so my story , and all my long time friends say I should write a book, film my day to day, it would be a script for all to see and as they say , “life can be stranger than fiction”, and seriously, my life is. Thankfully my parents did well, brought me up with confidence and took me everywhere. Kids with disabilites like me are sheltered and like I said , hitting 40 soon my eyes see this weird and wonderful world in new ways. They say people change every 7 or ??_ years, have u heard this? Everything about us, or a lot.

        Reply
        • Yes. I can’t remember who said it or the research behind it otherwise I would give proper credit but I remember hearing in grad school that five years is the rough time frame that includes the life of the current you. Meaning, when you spend time regretting decisions you made many years ago, you’re attempting to access a person that really no longer exists. It’s unproductive and it undercuts your ability to make the best choices you can in this moment. You aren’t your past. That’s a liberating thought to me, and hopefully it is for you, too.

          Melani

          Reply
          • funny u also used the word “stuck” in your video … I did not see this prior to naming myself Stuck” .. : )

  8. I don’t believe in regretting life choices and playing the what-if game.
    Because in truth what seems right for us right now, might not have been right back then. Maybe we had to acquire additional skills or we had to mature and grow before feeling ready to tackle our dreams.

    As you pointed out your regret fades as soon as you “think about all of the good things that came from my detour”.

    I don’t think life is supposed to move in a straight path. I find it much easier to accept that life is dotted with detours and winding roads than to regret that the path, which lead me to this point in my life, wasn’t straight.

    Regret tends to keep us rooted to the spot, because we are looking into a past we cannot change rather than focussing on a present and future that we can still shape.

    Kudos to you for inspiring people to take a hand in shaping and changing their present situation into a satisfactory career.

    It is never too late to change things.

    Reply
    • Hi Bina,

      I love the visual of being rooted to a certain spot. We think of roots as our foundation and our grounding place. But, we can also get comfortable there with our eyes on the past. The trick is to see the foundation we’ve built and let it be a point of strength rather than allowing it to impede our growth.

      You clearly have a healthy view that I suspect has allowed you to experience many great things and change when it feels right. I admire that and I hope some of your openness will rub off on those readers who feel stuck right now.

      Thanks!

      Melani

      Reply
      • just saw your link, u have kind and wise eyes. I am a HR major too and worked as a Recruiter, Headhunter, etc..and actually wanted to help place people in their ideal life-role too 10+ yrs ago, no one would give me the job. I was too aggressive and a bad listener to be in HR so Sales it was…at least I know my weaknesses and refocused them to do good… also, a a person with disability I pride to have a incredible eye for people and as U mentioned .. I too would be a invaluable fbi employee .. it would be a unique department though .. and my conclusion is that so many people visit these websites, like this one,etc., because they are stuck or simply have not been placed into their appropriate spot, like a puzzle , lego …. if you see my example. I keep it short n sweet, to the point.. The most important jobs out there in the world are those that match people with tasks (HR), and sadly too many of the people in power simply don’t know shit. pardon my French. and there’s my example where I “am” the guy who should be Pres., but cannot stand to play the games / get by all the mundane steps involved and politics. , .. I was a Mngr at McDonalds by 17y/o while f/t in high school!.. just a taste of my early achievements. I should stop rambling. anyhow, keep up the excellent work. you are perfect for it.

        Reply
  9. Regret. What a horrible thing. For a long time I thought that “I had made it.” I come from a working class family. My mother and father hardly finished grammar school, and most of my siblings follow the same path. Since early age I wanted things to be different for me and I worked and studied hard, put myself through college, get all the certifications I needed to be successful (PMP, SAP, MCTS, etc.). I started my career in IT and worked mostly for the corporate world for about 15 years. I never really “loved” it, but it was the fastest way to make money. I am 40 now. I had four jobs in the last three years. I walked out of two and was fired from the other two because a very bad attitude. The worse of it is that the thought of going back to an office petrifies me. I am broke, stocked, lost, lonely (money or the lack of it changes people). I think about what I wanted to be then. I wanted to be a teacher but that did not pay much, an architect but it was hard to “make it,” a cook but for that I did not need a college degree. I made a lot money but I did not save much. I helped my four sister with their many kids, and took charged of my mother. All I have now is debt $30,000 credit card, $15,000 IRS, and a lot of regret. I WANT TO BELIEVE THAT THIS SITUATION WILL CHANGE!

    Reply
    • It has to Al, and i know what you mean, trust me. Even without dropping my financials, as for the $ too, your point may be the single most fundamentally primary reason so many of us are here. We were after the wrong things. Money will buy me the lambo and the yacht , which in return make me happy. but what when you wake up one morning and you cannot get out of bed or get dressed? Just an example,. or like me , some of that (due to chronic pain brought on by computer work), and all of a sudden overwhelming stress from worry, cant find a english speaking doctor, money, again, friends gone, job that impressed all the so called friends, gone, .. do as I say not as I do and Melani said it somewhere, right stuff down , attack each 1 step at a time. I know, easier said than done … I got several lists. You can do it. We have to.

      Reply
    • Al,

      I am sorry things have not turned out as planned but it can change. Perhaps harnessing some of that drive, guts and perseverance you needed all those years ago when you did what seemed impossible is what you’ll need now too. Clearly you have what it takes. You’ve proven it over and over in your life.

      Best,

      Melani

      Reply
    • … I just actually said these exact words to my parents today after trying to explain to my dad why the Doc he saw today commented, “maybe you could help me do the surgery” … referring to the work that needs to be done on him , a small common op yet the doc was shocked I knew all the terms and talked to him as his colleague does. It blew my dad away too, he was dumbfounded I could use these complex medical terms and have a doc intrigued. with zero medical training .. and then later on I specifically stated, “The worse of it is that the thought of going back to an office petrifies me” I swear it is a weird coincidence I have not talked about this topic since last on this blog. And then I find this link just prior to loggin this reply; http://www.popularmechanics.com/archive/outdoors/extreme-jobs/0/10 … timing. It is a matter of time and I know things are going to fall into place. I feel it. Positive energy!

      Reply
  10. Synchronicity ..another term that I heavily relate to .. or some say coincidences? Anyhow, what are the odds that we are having this conversation online, 2 strangers, and I just had lunch with my Mom who’s father was a lifelong entrepreneur and even though it has been my lifelong goal to do my own thing and strongly believe I will spend the rest of my days self employed my Mom begs to differ. Without going to a full psych~analysis of the family dynamics and differences between my Grandparents (work) roles , Mom says I am better suited in a corporate environment , probably because she wants me to have a steady and secure job, funny, I thought those were extinct … the old way of thinking,… and ~ even though I never witnessed my 1 other Grandma eat most of the dishes she cooked while making them hunched over the stove I do the same today, preferring to eat and talk more while standing and moving than sitting at the table , sorry if I confused u here, I am overlapping the themes we started with Mom.s.. but they are still related and speaking to our elders brings much reflection and insight as to where we all may end up.

    Reply
  11. Stuck. Thank you. Looking for help kind of helps. I would had never thought that I would be reading self-help material in the internet. It’s funny how many time I made fun of people that read “self-help crap.” I thought that these people were just weak men and women looking for attention and not wanting to take responsibility for their lives. What a way to learn the meaning of the word empathy! …I saw a psychiatrist myself. The guy gave me a bunch of pills and I took them for some time, hoping that “this” would go away, but it made things worse. I gained 30 lbs. and it took a toll on my already shattered self-esteem. Moms, moms … I am getting sick of my mom’s and siblings’ passive aggressive comments about my situation. “It is a shamed you feel like this … after all the education and experience you have ….. awwww but we loved you very much.” Or “I hope you overcome this phase soon, you have been an angel in our live and we love you.” I wonder if what they are really saying is “get over yourself asshole and start working so you can help me to pay my bills.” I truly like Melani Ward’s essay but the remedy is not as simple as it sounds (for me anyway). I remember reading a while ago about the five states of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). I have to let “Albert” RIP and move on with my life. I think that I have to let go of the what-ifs to get over this (whatever it is). I am tired of being angry for the choices I made, or being depressed about it. It is what it is … I am taking every advise I can get. I am sick and tired of this.

    Reply
    • Time to move on and dont let your financial; situation or debt define you and drive your emotions. Make the minimum payment if u can and if not drop it, go bankrupt, seriously, think about ? is your own life worth loosing for $100,k? Nope. Going crazy? Nope. Life is too short, move on and get healthy. Forward.

      Reply
    • Albert,

      it may sound really meaningless to you right now, but you will most probably come through this rough time feeling grateful for having experienced it.

      The desperate times in our lives tend to be the moments that bring us closer to our real selves, to our true pupose, and to a permanent form of happiness. Just think what you’ve already found… self-help.

      And yes, I do think most people believe self-improvement bo be stupid and that people who rely on it are weak and gullible, but as you’ve already seen for yourself it’s the opposite. Self-improvement empowers people to face life’s struggles with integrity, hope and optimism. And life always entails struggles of some sort, more so for some than others, but no one is safe from illness, strokes of fate, or unhappiness. The key is to make the best of it.

      Letting go of your anger, resentment and regret is an important step. Feeling anger is perfectly normal and acceptable. Just remember that your anger will color everything and everyone you encounter right now.

      Let it go. Sometimes symbolic acts can help. Write a note for every single thing that makes you angry, then burn the notes one by one (be safe while doing this, no point in burning down your home…). Once your anger is gone, you’ll find that you have room in yourself for positive feelings.

      This difficult and depressing situation you’re finding yourself in can be your chance at a full and happy life in your future.

      Best of luck to you!

      Reply
      • Thank you!

        Reply
  12. Really inspiring. But how do a person reconnect with itself when he is thrashed already.

    Reply
  13. There’s always the choice about what you are going to do NOW and for the rest of your Life. What’s happened has happened, don’t have any more ‘regrets’. Thanks Melanie
    be good to yourself
    David

    Reply
  14. Phenomenal article Melani…thanks for your great insight and perspective.

    Reply
  15. I loved this article! I really needed hear this, but what if the dream that you have is not considered very realistic by most of society? What if you have always had a talent, but due to financial and family responsibilities I have chosen to pursue a “safer” career? I am 43 and changing life gears to become a speech pathologist. I LOVE the path that I am on, and I know that I love helping people; especially children. However, I was a voice major at one time in college, and that is my one true love! I am not saying that I want to be some type of famous singer, but I would love to just have a band, and sing locally, and see where that leads…what do you think? Does this sound preposterous at my age?

    Reply
  16. Excellent article. I was reading the thread of my life in this and had to find out “what happened” when reading yours. One of my recent thoughts has been “Buried ideals…willingness to drift…STOP…awaken who you are”. Your blog is very timely to me.

    Reply
  17. Hi Melani,

    I like the spelling of your name without the ‘e.’ Great article! I like the way your thinking is about regret. If we’re going to look back at our regrets, then we might as well use them as lessons to be learn. When we look back in hindsight we see clearly now that we’ve made the wrong choices. This is why are parents, teachers, and coaches were always making sure that we stayed on track, because they’ve seen kids take a route that wasn’t helpful to their growth.

    Thanks
    Eugene

    Reply
  18. It sounds like a lot of people (including me) are at or have been at a place where we are not satisfied with the work we’ve been doing and possibly, if not probably already have another passion in mind we’d like to pursue.

    Its crazy that so many people in this world feel like they are stuck in their line of work and can see no way of ever doing the thing they most enjoy as a living. I’ve also spent years in engineering and I have enjoyed much of it. However, for the last few years, I’ve noticed that I don’t enjoy being an engineer anymore.

    I’ve found myself thinking more and more about finding a way to do what I really love to do. I have been working my way out of the engineering gig slowly for the last year now and I hope to be spending most of my time thinking about and doing what I enjoy soon.

    I look at my parents, who are pretty old now, and I see the regrets they have for the things they never did. I don’t know who said it but I once heard someone say “when you get old, the regrets you have are never because of the things you did do, but the things you didn’t do”. I’m sure I butchered that saying but the point is still valid in my book.

    Your story and the others you told will be my story in a few years. I hope I can tell it so eloquently.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  19. Thanks for this wonderful piece, and I all can say is I am in a really similar boat contemplating whether I should have a day job in PR, and on the side still keep working as a writer. At the end of the day, I just want to land up with a job where I am writing what I love.
    Cheers for the inspiration.

    Reply
  20. I’m a 52 yr old woman with an engineering degree in 1983. I never practiced engineering but took an MBA an worked in the banking/manufacturing for 20 years, left and have been doing fashion design since 2005. I feel under accomplished and have had a nagging desire to return to civil engineering and make a career out of it. However I feel too old, have no idea how I can re enter the civil engineering world ……so I’m just wallowing in thoughts of regrets….any advice please?

    Reply
  21. Thanks for these great posts. I recently turned down a dream job, after accepting it for four days…something in me just could feel comfortable with it. I couldn’t pin it down, and my head said I should take the job…but my gut was sick about it. Then, a week later, I found out I was pregnant! So it all made sense…but I still feel intense regret, and like I no longer know what I am doing with my career or where to go next. I have a great job, actually, but want to take on more leadership opportunities and responsibility…and just turned down that chance. Now I feel like a coward — plus my decision reversal was rather public within the circle I work in. Tell me there’s hope!

    Reply
  22. Hi Melanie

    A brilliantly written article. You’ve articulated yourself extremely well. I really like your point about acting from the space of who you are today as opposed to who you were many years ago.

    I agree that we change every 5 years or so, and to go back and do those things that we regret not having done 20 years ago just may not make sense given that each of us has now evolved and is a different person today. A subtle but important point.

    Another thing that I really liked about your post was your point about not looking back on your regrets and early comparing it to some kind of best case scenario/ideal that we saw somewhere in our environment.

    You’re absolutely right, had we not made those choices in the past (that we now regret), we might have actually been in a much worse situation. But interestingly we always look back on situations and imagine how well they could have played out rather than imagining both the best case and the worst-case scenarios that may have emanated from those choices.

    Reply
  23. Hi ,

    I stumbled upon your article and really think it’s well written. I moved out of my home state a yr and a half ago. Earlier this yr I decided I want to move back home and I got offered an amazing position in the heart of the city making really good money with a state job but I ended up deciding to stay in my new state and finish school. I now regret this soo much. It has been less than a month that I turned them down and I can’t find a new job here and nothing is working out as planned. I may really need to move back to my home state now but now without the great job and basically no job starting all over. I really do not know how to let go of this regret. I didn’t think I would regret it but I do tremendously. I think Fear stopped me from moving back and it was a big change for me moving back home and taking the train to work spending a lot to get there everyday and didn’t know if it would be worth it but now that I think about it long term it would have paid off. I just turned 31 and it was the perfect timing. I guess I have no choice but to get over it but it hurts everyday. Thanks for listening have a good day!

    Reply

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