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12/09/2014 12:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Real Reason Regret Is Holding You Back

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The author of The Seat of the Soul shares the revelation that gets you through those late-night struggles -- with yourself.

By Gary Zukav

The real reason you keep stumbling on regret: the parts of your personality that originate in fear (such as those that experience remorse, guilt and shame, as well as regret). When one of these becomes active in you, you feel that you have made a mistake, perhaps a big mistake. In other words, regret comes from feeling that you have done something wrong. Each time you feel that you have done something wrong, something you should have and could have done differently, something that would have brought you praise instead of ridicule, gain instead of loss, credit instead of blame, or happiness instead of sorrow, this part of your personality experiences regret.

Regret is not unlike the experience of scarcity. This part of your personality feels that it has wasted an opportunity that will not come again, and that opportunities are like gold nuggets -- few and far between. If you are not aware that these experiences come from a part of your personality, you will experience them as coming from you, from the being that you think you are. You will search for opportunities, pray for opportunities, and then become terrified at squandering one. You stumble on regret when that part of your personality becomes frightened that you have lost love, friendship, a colleague or a future that you long for. When you feel that these experiences are yours (and not those of a part of your personality), you miss the point entirely. The point is this: Each experience of regret itself is a precious opportunity, a doorway to your spiritual growth. Each presents you with an opportunity to identify a frightened part of your personality, experience it consciously and choose to act from a loving part of your personality instead -- for example, a part that is grateful, appreciative, content or caring. Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright, gave one of his characters the most remarkable line: "What I thought was my greatest loss was my greatest gain to lose." The parts of your personality that experience regret are incapable of comprehending this possibility -- or of considering that the joy of expanded perception, the lifting of agony and the gratitude for new treasures found are the potential that each moment of regret offers you.

I moved to Miami after I left the Army in 1968. I was a sex addict, an adventurer and needy for admiration. I soon noticed how much open land there was around the city, and I also saw how easy it would be to build apartments on some and to make a lot of money doing it. I planned two developments -- one for 645 units, and a fall-back plan for 154 units. I put everything into place -- the land, an attorney, an LLC, an architect and a contractor. The only thing I could not put into place was the money. No matter how hard I tried, it would not happen. It was as though a door closed in front of me each time I looked for funds. My regret was deep and long-lasting.

Decades later, while I was savoring the richness of my life (the satisfaction of sharing The Seat of the Soul, the people in my life and the closeness and caring that surrounded me), I had a vision -- or perhaps it was an insight -- that left me breathless. I saw, or felt I saw, what my life could have been at that time in Miami -- if I were still living that life. Before me was the dock of a huge estate, with its Spanish-style main house and red tile roofs. Tied to the dock was a huge yacht -- my yacht. Around the pool were young prostitutes. I -- the person seeing this -- was sickly and empty and perhaps diseased. The more I saw of this vision, the more gratitude I felt for whatever or whomever or however the miracle of NOT creating it happened. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU, for this blessed "failure" that still fills me.

Releasing regret is not about sour grapes. For example, "I didn't want that mansion on Biscayne Bay anyway." I did want it, and I wanted it more than anything else at the time. However, what my choices have created since then -- choices that I did not know I would or could make in my future -- was not merely something better. It was something unimaginable—the life that I am living now.

Being able to say thank you for the miracle that losing a friend, job or future you long for is easy. It is far more difficult to say thank you at the moment you ruin a friendship, start the divorce or think you have ruined your future. Being able to say THANK YOU to every experience as it happens is authentic power. As you create authentic power with your choices, experiences of regret come less frequently and their power over you diminishes. Eventually, they disappear. How can you regret something that fills you with gratitude? How can you regret a life as miraculous and awesome as your own? How can you regret the compassion and wisdom of the Universe?

To learn more about forgiveness, visit SeatoftheSoul.com and read The Seat of the Soul. You can send questions to Gary Zukav at gary@seatofthesoul.com and he will answer as many as he can on his website.

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