A Coaching Power Tool Created by Ada Neumann
(Spiritual Coach, UNITED STATES)
It’s your life. You don’t need someone’s permission to live the life you want. Be brave to live from your heart. – Roy. T. Bennet, The Light in the Heart
In the best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, there is a simple exercise that encompasses the idea of Courage vs. Regret beautifully. The exercise is this; you imagine you are at a funeral. This funeral is your funeral. You see all the people who have gathered to mourn your death. Your family. Your friends. People you worked with. They are all there. You’ve impacted or influenced all of the people at your funeral in some way. All that’s left is your legacy and the memory of you. And then it comes time for the speeches. What are your loved ones going to say about your life; about your legacy? How are people going to remember you? Are you going to be remembered as being a loving spouse or parent? Are you going to be remembered for your groundbreaking work in your career? Are you going to be remembered for being an unmistakably kind person? If you were to take yourself through your own funeral right now, what would you be remembered for? Now think about how you would like to be remembered.
The exercise of taking yourself through your own funeral gets you to think about who you want to become in your life, and how you want people to remember you. At the end of our lives, we all want to feel proud of our lives lived. No one wants to look back at their life on their deathbed and have regret about the life they’ve lived… or haven’t lived. One needs to have the courage to live a life they won’t regret. Courage vs. Regret is about having the bravery to live a life you’ll be proud of.
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. – Anais Nin
Courage is defined in the dictionary as, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”
As humans, we operate by pain vs. pleasure. Tony Robbins likes to say we are either moving toward pleasure or away from pain. Having the courage to live a life you won’t regret can be scary. This feeling of uncertainty can be painful. It is much more pleasurable to live inside your comfort zone. But if you take a step back and look at your life from the perspective of Courage vs. Regret, regret can be far more painful. Imagine looking back at your life and feeling regret for all the things you didn’t have the courage to pursue. Moving away from courage throughout your life moves you toward regret later.
The thing that stops most people from living a courageous life is fear. Everyone has fear, but facing the fear and moving past it is how we grow. Fear comes in many forms; fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown. They are all things that people get scared of facing. Instead of fearing fear itself, we can use our fear to guide us forward. Often, we hide from our fears because it’s too scary to admit them. We tuck our fears away where no one can see them until we are no longer aware of them. But one of the simplest ways to combat fear is to get them out in the open. Once something is out in the open and we become aware of it, we then have a choice to hold onto it or to let it go. It’s as simple as that. Although it’s simple, it’s not always easy. Living a life of courage has to do with becoming aware of what we fear, and having the courage to let it go. Anyone can let something go, it’s just a matter of courage. Becoming aware of our fears and choosing to let them go is the first step in having courage in our lives.
Another thing that stops people from having courage in their lives is avoiding creating a vision. Once again, fear is a factor. Some people have a fear that if they create a big vision if they dare to dream, they won’t be able to achieve their dream. All of these thoughts are limiting us from fulfilling our purposes. Just like becoming aware of our fears, becoming aware of the thoughts that limit us can be the powerful experience we need to transform. Understanding what is keeping us from taking a risk, and stepping outside of our comfort zones, is at the core of moving away from regret, and toward courage.
One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself. – Shannon L. Alder
Regret is defined in the dictionary as, “feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).”
When we regret something, it’s usually because of two things. Either we were afraid of it, and because we were afraid, we moved away from pain and toward the pleasure of staying comfortable, or we were trying to please something outside of us. If we take a closer look at the latter, a very crippling theme arises; people-pleasing. If you think back to the funeral exercise, examine your answer closely. Does your answer truly belong to you, or does it belong to someone else? Is that really how you want to be remembered, or is it the way society has conditioned you to want to be remembered? Deep within all of us is our authentic self. Unfortunately, our purest being has been conditioned and shaped into something else according to societal standards. If you were to look back at your life at your funeral, would you be pleased with the life you lived? Pleasing ourselves instead of others moves us toward courage and away from regret. Or in the long-term, away from pain and toward pleasure.
Just like understanding our fears and what stops us from taking courageous steps in our lives, it is important to understand who we truly want to become. Formulating our own beliefs, values, and thoughts about things moves us away from regret. To move away from regret, one must evaluate who one wants to become. Sometimes it’s hard to understand what is ours and what is conditioning. Deep inquiry can help someone decipher what was bestowed upon them, and what they chose to believe.
Another thing to mention about moving away from a life of regret is taking on the role of self-responsibility. Regret and blame are closely related. It’s easy to blame others for our regret, but true freedom comes when we take responsibility for our actions or inactions. To be courageous is to take responsibility for the outcome, no matter what happens. Although it can seem painful to take a courageous step, it is far more painful to live a life you’ll regret.
At the core of Courage vs Regret, a power tool is a self-awareness and self-discovery. One must understand their fears, concepts, and beliefs before stepping into the role of courage. A coach can listen for the limitations their clients are putting on themselves. These limitations can transform into unlimited possibilities through powerful questions.
Questions to ask relating to Courage vs Regret:
- If you had nothing to lose, what would you do?
- What scares you the most about doing that?
- If you were to look back at this decision at the end of your life, would you regret it?
- What do you want to be remembered for in life?
- What would it look like if this fear no longer existed? And what impact would that have on your life?
- What would you do if you had all the courage in the world?
- What is one courageous step you could take right now?
- If you were to put aside everything everyone has told you to do, what would you actually want to be doing?
- What is something you’ve always wanted to do, but have been too scared to do?
- What is something you know you’d regret not doing in your life?
- How would your life change if you were to take one courageous step outside of your comfort zone?
Using the Courage vs Regret power tool allows exploring different “what if” scenarios. By giving the client the space to explore what could happen, either relating to regretting something or having courage, we’re allowing them to see their situation or themselves from a different perspective. By exploring these scenarios, the client is also granted the opportunity to face their fears. After asking a “what if” style question, further exploration is often an opportunity to uncover any limiting beliefs or assumptions the client might have. Asking the client to explore the things they would regret helps move them toward having more courage. Asking the client to explore the impact of taking a courageous step can be an empowering experience.
We all crave the idea of feeling satisfied at the end of our life. To feel like we’ve had a sense of purpose, and to feel like we have no regrets. It takes acts of courage throughout our lives to move away from the feeling of regret. Whether small or big, having acts of courage pushes us outside of our comfort zones, enhances our personal growth, and ultimately, moves us away from regretting what could have been.
Bennet, Roy. The Light in the Heart: Inspirational Thoughts for Living Your Best Life. Roy Bennet, 2016
Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989
Robbins, Anthony Awaken the Giant Within. New York: Summit Books, 1991