If someone ever encourages you to do something, and they say “no regrets”, run the other way – quickly…
When someone says “no regrets” it usually means “I’m about to lead you to a series of mistakes probably wouldn’t have made completely on your own, and for which I refuse any responsibility.” Or, put more bluntly, means “here’s your rope, I even tied the noose and got the ladder for you…”
Regrets are echoes of mistakes, poor decisions, which exist to remind us to make better decisions. A mistake isn’t bad in or of itself, for without them we cannot learn, grow, or are challenged to improve ourselves. A boxed getting tagged on the chin with a right hook means “keep your left guard up”. The physical pain will pass, we heal and move on, but the ghost is there to help us remember and learn.
Humility is a certain requirement one must have or engage in to improve upon anything. After all, we cannot improve if we’re already perfect or the best. Some may make the claim, but if they are constantly expanding and challenging their capabilities and skills, then the actions speak louder. Legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius used to introduce himself as “the best bassist in the world” – and its little debated he had achieved that status at one point. What got him there was the energy and tenancy with which he pursued his craft – looking at every mistake as an opportunity to improve, learn, and exposing himself to completely new things to be challenged and grow.
Keeping one’s “cup empty” means to remain humble. If look at yourself as a vessel, each time you fill that vessel with knowledge or a feeling of competence, you are full (e.g. feeling full of yourself or what you know). To learn and discover you need to empty your cup so that you can continue to learn as if a beginner – hungry, open, without bias. Keeping your cup empty is not easy, and that is exactly the purpose of regret – to remind us that no matter where we are in life, we made mistakes, and have much yet to learn.
Ever notice how often remembering mistakes or embarrassments tend to occur more frequently in the shower? Amazing how, at any given moment while washing your hair or what-have-you, memories of a mistake, error, chagrin, come flooding in. Water seeks a container, and your cup is there to receive it – whether or not it’s full or not makes little difference. What does make a difference is how deeply this impacts you. If your cup is full, you feel these moments more intensely. If you cup is empty, there is still some room to accept it, acknowledge it, and empty it again. Or as the wisdom of my shampoo bottle suggests – “wash, rinse, and repeat as needed”.
In all seriousness, this phenomenon often occurs because it’s the one moment you are not completely distracted by everything else. Without drowning out your thoughts through noise, your consciousness and memory can actually dialog, resulting in flashes of memory. While often uncomfortable, the value is that it’s there to help remind us, especially when something close at hand seems vaguely similar. We may not consciously recognize the similarity of a situation, but the pattern oriented processing mind certainly will. Raising the ghosts is one method your own subconscious tries to communicate.