Talking points: regret, purpose, direction

I was recently reminded of a powerful moment I had with an old mentor. At the time, I was having trouble deciding what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and I felt directionless and fearful of regret. This is a topic I’ve covered before, but it’s one worth reflecting on. Listen in.


All right, team. Welcome back to The ManTalks Show. I’m Connor Beaton, and today we’re gonna be talking about regret. How to deal with it, and why it might be one of the most important things that you’ve never considered in your life and your development.

Before we dive into that, I just want to say thank you to everybody that’s been subscribing to the YouTube channel and to the podcast. We’ve got over 20,000 subscribers on YouTube and on the podcast. I think on Spotify we’ve got like 18,000 subscribers. So make sure that you hit that subscribe button wherever you are listening or viewing to the show.

All right. Regret. How do we deal with it? This is something that is – I almost said near and dear to my heart – but it’s very true for me that I’ve lived a life where I’ve done a tremendous amount of things. I’ve traveled the world. I’ve raced motorcycles. I had a career in construction. I sang classical music. I worked for Apple. I’ve done all of these things. And I’ve also done some things that I have deeply regretted. I’ve acted out of integrity, I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve hurt people. And so I’ve lived a life trying to not regret anything for a little while, for a period of time trying to make sure that I didn’t regret anything, but then simultaneously doing things that I deeply regretted.

I remember hearing a quote by Christopher Hitchens that really struck me years and years ago, and I think recently I was reminded by it. I was listening to the Chris Williams show, the Modern Wisdom Show, and he brought it up where he talked about how Christopher Hitchens says, choose your regrets. Choose your regrets.

I was reminded of a conversation with a mentor of mine where I was talking about a challenge that I was having in my life, and I wasn’t really too sure if I wanted to leave my career at the time and start to pursue a different career. This mentor was teaching me all about Jungian psychology, and Daoism, and these different therapeutic and spiritual modalities; and I just couldn’t tell if I wanted to leave the career, and he said,”you know, Connor, this career is for people that can’t see themselves doing anything else with their life.”

And I could see myself doing a tremendous amount with my life. And I knew that there was something missing from this career that was sort of intangible. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something missing. And he said, “it’s better to regret what you’ve done than to regret what you haven’t.”

It’s better to regret what you’ve done than to regret what you haven’t. And that’s always stuck with me. It’s always stuck with me because I think that we as men, especially within our masculine core, we want to go out into the world. There’s something about the masculine essence, about masculinity that wants to pierce out into the world or penetrate out into the world. Build something, create something, adventure, explore, experience, and be witness to and present with as much as we can. This doesn’t mean that you should choose things actively that you’re gonna regret, that are out of integrity and out of alignment and gonna get you to – maybe get thrown in jail, or killed, or something like that. I’m not advocating for you to go out and do stupid stuff; but what I’m saying is that we live in a time, in a place, in culture where it’s very common for men to feel overly domesticated. It’s easy for you to go work your nine to five, and come home and be tired, and turn on Netflix, and just do that, and have that be the life that you live; versus pursuing something that really is meaningful that you may come with some regrets because there inevitably is a choice point when we start to pursue the things that we want: the better body, right, going to the gym every single day, building a business or starting a company, or starting to approach more women if you’re a single guy out in public, or working on your relationship, or bettering your finances in some capacity. You have to make choices to let something go. Like for me, I’ve had to let go of alcohol. I’ve had to let go of weed. I’ve had to let go of porn. I’ve had to let go of all of these coping mechanisms that didn’t necessarily serve me, but some of them – I enjoyed having a whiskey once in a while, or a beer once in a while, having an IPA, going out with the buddies. But, it’s not necessarily the life that I wanted to explore.

I wanted to meet my edge. I wanted to see what I’m capable of physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. As a father, as a husband, as a business owner, I want to see what I’m capable of in this lifetime. I want to go out and explore and adventure and travel and experience things, and there’s certain things that I know if I choose them, they are more likely to leave me not wanting to explore an experience. They’re more likely to leave me with the sensation that I regret things that I hadn’t done because they were getting in the way. And so I would rather pursue things and fail; and this is the interesting part: because when you pursue things, and I’ve worked with a bunch of high level musicians and entrepreneurs and athletes over the years – Olympic athletes and pro athletes – and they all have regrets about their pursuit. Missing the game-winning shot or not hitting number one on the billboard charts or whatever it is. They might have a regret about something that didn’t happen, but they are still in pursuit of something that’s meaningful to them versus the guy that’s not in pursuit of really anything that lights him up.

And that might be you, right?

It was certainly me for a while where I remember when I was in my early twenties, I think I was like 20, 21. I was miserable. I was working in a gravel pit in northern Alberta during the winters. It was like minus 40 outside. I was working the night shift. And it was loud, it was freezing cold, and I hated it. I hated every minute of it. I was living this life of regret of not pursuing the things that maybe I would fail at. Maybe I wouldn’t be exceptional at, but I was living a life of burdensome regret, and I think that’s the really big difference. When we are living in pursuit, we’re gonna have regrets about things that went wrong or failed, or the wrong decisions that we made. The things that we maybe could have done better in hindsight.

But that is exponentially more rewarding, more exciting, more engaging, and more activating for our masculine essence than it is not pursuing anything and living a life of regretting what you never did. And I’ve seen this really destroy men. I’ve seen it in my family, I’ve seen it in friends, I’ve seen it in men that I’ve worked with. That the things that we don’t pursue, that we know in our core, deep in our gut, that we want to pursue when we don’t. That type of regret is not only constrictive, but it’s damaging to our soul. It’s damaging to our mind and our body because we wake up every single day and we live with the knowing that we’re not moving towards the thing that we ultimately want and need; and the beautiful thing about pursuing is the regrets that come along with what you’ve done is that you have to face your fears, you have to meet your edge. And that’s the odd thing about choosing your regret is that you end up making change and when you live a life trying to avoid your regrets – I don’t wanna regret anything. I don’t want to get anything wrong. I wanna live in this perfectionist mindset – what ends up happening is that you stay in the same place. Because you’re afraid.

There’s a great quote by a man named Dr. James Hollis, who I’ve had on my podcast before, one of the foremost Jungian analysts of our time. He said: “men’s lives are governed by fear.”

Men’s lives are governed by fear.

And over the years I have seen so many men who have been governed by fear: by the fear of pursuing what they want in their relationship, sexually, governed by the fear of pursuing what they want in their business, financially, with their body, physically, with their minds. Really afraid to see what they’re capable of.

And I thinkthat is the most crushing form of regret that we can live with, and I think what’s interesting is there’s a freedom that comes along with pursuing the things that we ultimately know in our heart, in our core, that we want to pursue, that we want to build, that we wanna create, that we wanna become.

And I can say unequivocally, if I died today or tomorrow, that the only real regret that I would have is that I didn’t get more time with my son. That I didn’t get to see him grow up. It wouldn’t be that I haven’t done something or experienced something. There’s minor things like I’ve always wanted to go to Japan and that’s on our list to do in the next couple years.

So there’d be some minor things like that. But for the most part, I have pursued and activated and achieved things that have gone wildly beyond what I ever thought I would do. Racing motorcycles, having a dream car, traveling the world, getting to experience all kinds of food and culture, and building an incredible business, working for one of the most successful companies of the world.

I’ve really gone after the things that from the outside look like they might come with a lot of failure, but I think that I’ve always tried to unintentionally live this motto that it’s better to regret the things that you’ve done and the things that you haven’t, because those types of things can be really crushing.

So my invitation for you today, as I just wrap up, is to look at your life. Look at the things that you’ve done that you’ve regretted, and probably those regrets are tied to a failure or a bad decision, or a wrong choice.

Those things can be let go. Those things can be forgiven. Those things can be healed.

Again, this isn’t to advocate for like criminal behavior and those types of things, right? I just wanna make that super clear. But then look at the things that you haven’t done that you know you have regrets around: the business that you want to build, the product, that you want to launch, whatever it is – the book that you wanna write, the artistic project that you’ve been putting on the back burner, the part of your relationship that you’ve been avoiding intensely. The regret of maybe not treating your body the way that you ultimately know you want to with the food that you eat and the training that you embody.

So start to write some of these things down, like what are the regrets that I have about the things that I haven’t done? And then see if you’re willing to just confront that edge. Starting to pursue that edge.

There’s a guy – and I’ll wrap up with this – there’s a guy in the ManTalks Alliance, this group of, 400 or 500 guys from around the world. It’s online men’s group, and he, over the course of the last year and a half, I believe, has lost I think about 150 pounds in his time in the Alliance. And he has worked diligently to face this fear. And I remember on one of the calls, or on one of the posts, he was talking about not wanting to live a life regretting not doing this, not losing this weight, not seeing what he was capable of and not getting himself into shape.

And now his whole personality has changed as he’s gone through this physical transformation. And so that’s a, maybe a somewhat extreme example, but I think it’s something that we can all align with and understand that there’s probably a part of you as you’re watching this or listening to this thinking, yeah, there, there actually is something that I’m not pursuing, that I’m not going after. And if I died tomorrow, if my life ended tomorrow, would I regret, if I could have some awareness that I had died and that I hadn’t gotten to do this thing, if I died tomorrow, would I ever regret not pursuing that thing? Taking my kids camping or traveling to wherever or starting that business or seeing what my body is physically capable of.

What are the things? So write them down, make a commitment to yourself. Choose one of them and begin to pursue them because it’s better to live with the regrets of what you’ve done than it is to live with the regret of what you haven’t.

So thanks for tuning in. Make sure that you share this episode. Man it forward.

And until next week, this is Connor Beaton signing off.

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