Regret is for Weenies: How to Push Past Your Negative Thoughts and Live Boldly

I starred at the “confirm purchase” button on Priceline’s website, leaned back, and took another swig of cheap Pinot Grigio. I imagined myself strolling along Sunset Boulevard and frolicking along the shore in Malibu. After six years of meticulous planning and rigorous studying to achieve law school-worthy grades, I was choosing adventure.

I clicked confirm, and printed out my travel details for my solo trip across California.

Now, you may think that what I did was fearless and bold, but it wasn’t. It was actually the most fearful and cowardly move I’ve ever made, and I regret it to this day.

You see, years ago, I chose to fly away rather than face potential failure. I booked my flight to Los Angeles on the day that my LSATs were taking place.

For weeks, I had been doubting myself. When I took a prep class and heard the statistics of failure, I panicked. I immediately labelled myself as unworthy. When my long time boyfriend left me weeks after my graduation, I took it as a confirmation of my unworthiness. I was constantly looking for external validation that I was enough, which made me a great university student, but a terrible functioning human in the real world.

It’s not even that I wish to attend law school and become a lawyer, it’s that my decision set a pattern of risk aversion that took years to break, even though it felt like freedom in the moment.

Over the years, I’ve made mistakes and faced loads of rejection. Each time, I’ve learned to dust myself off and carry on. Why? Because I’ve learned the hard way that there is nothing more painful than regret. The chances that I DIDN’T take are the only ones that linger in my mind.

We all have negative self talk and doubts. I’m not going to pretend like my weekly yoga, meditation, and gratitude practices eliminate it completely. However, I’ve learned how to label negative self talk instead of just accepting it, and it’s allowed me to develop from an Agoraphobic runaway to a challenge-seeking public speaker and fearless writer.

Recently, when the nerves kicked in right before a speaking engagement with Northern Illinois University, I labelled it, and asked my network for tips on pushing past it. I’m including some of the stellar advice I received below. These work not just for public speaking, but any challenge that you need to prepare for!

1. Treat Yo’self!

“Power up! Get some alone time to recharge your batteries so that you have enough energy (mental, physical, and spiritual) to expel through the entire session” — Jason Pattee
“Breathe in a controlled 4 breaths in through your nose, 2 count hold, 4 breaths out thorough your nose, 2 count hold. Do that for a minute before you start. Trust your skill and go!” — Marty Bhatia

It’s so important to check in with yourself. In order to make tough decisions or face challenges ahead, you need to be in the right head space. As simple as it may seem, just making sure that you’re well rested, hydrated, comfortable, etc., is something that most people forget to be mindful of.

Just think about it, how many times have you heard your stomach growling only to realize that it’s late afternoon and you still haven’t eaten? Treat your body like a temple, not like a “pay by the hour” motel!

2. Fake it til you Make it!

“I remember Zig Ziglar had a good idea when he made a presentation years ago — he said that although he was real nervous, he decided to pretend that he wasn’t scared, and was going to be the best speaker the audience has heard — and it worked.” — Eddy Suckling
“Studies show if you reframe your jitters as you feeling ‘excited’ rather than ‘nervous’ you perform better!” -Ana Dursin

We all suffer from impostor syndrome at varying degrees. After all, each phase in your career requires a different level of who you are. Leveling up is awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful.

Just like Ana and Eddy mention, re-framing and visualization work wonders. Stop obsessing over what you aren’t yet, and focus more on who you want to be.

3. Lighten up….and throw on some tunes!

“Laugh! It loosens me up every time.” — Brian Blake
“‘Till I Collapse’ by Eminem — though it’s not one size fits all” — Sunny Trochaniak
“You’ve gotta have a hype song! Mine is ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC although it reminds me of the opener of a sporting event.” — Lorraine Aiken

I don’t have a hype song (yet!), but whenever I’m faced with a huge decision, I hit the road. I live out in the country, and there is something truly therapeutic about cruising alongside corn fields, with the windows down, and the radio turned up.

Maybe furious car dancing isn’t for you, but make time for play. It’ll help you realize that life isn’t all that serious!

4. Strike a Pose

“Strike a “Superman” pose, hold head up high, deep breaths in and out for 1 minute. And then own it!!!” -Christina Stansbury

Body language isn’t just important for outwardly appearances, but it also changes how we feel about ourselves. Whenever I write emails, I smile. It sounds bonkers, but smiling reminds me of how I want the recipient to feel.

Similarly, striking a pose before a huge challenge can send signals to the brain that everything is under control. Give it a go!

5. Own Your Flaws

“Just come from your heart and know that people want ‘real’… Just be yourself and lead with your heart. You cannot ever screw up that way. “ — Dr. Ina Nozek
“Don’t be afraid of sounding silly.” -Eylem Alper

Lastly, stop aiming for perfection.

Perfect is safe, boring, and potentially paralyzing. Your success is intertwined with your ability to connect with others. And to truly connect with others, you NEED to be vulnerable and share your strengths and your weaknesses. Heck, why else would you be reading an article on personal development from a car-dancing, sloth-loving, formally Agoraphobic marketer? Vulnerability is magnetic, and it binds us.

In “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, Palliative Care nurse Bronnie Ware shared the top regret of her dying patients, and it’s something I’ve hung up in my home as a constant reminder to do it anyway.

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Whatever your challenges ahead are, big or small, I truly hope that you can find the courage to charge after it, without regret.