Regrets and the Panic of Closing Doors

Are you feeling the panic of closing doors?

My German is limited to say the very least. In fact, it doesn’t extend far beyond ‘Doppelgänger’ and ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’! But recently I came across a magnificent addition to my vocabulary: ‘Torschlusspanik’, which literally translated means “gate-shut-panic” or ‘the panic of closing doors’.

The thing is, despite being in a different language, I know EXACTLY what it means… or rather, I know the complex emotion that Torschlusspanik sums up…. regret, combined with the fear that time, and hence opportunities, are running out.

It’s an emotion that many of us experience – even if we sometimes struggle to fully express it. I hear it time and time again from friends and clients when they try to give voice to some of their more unsettling feelings about ageing as they move into their Third Age.

It is without doubt a powerful, gut-wrenching emotion

Let’s face it, everybody has regrets – missed opportunities, paths not taken, ideas not pursued.

They say that in the end you only regret the things you didn’t do, not the things you did and you know, when I look back, I’m aware that of ALL the things I truly regret NONE of them – not a single one – was about things I did do.

Even when some of those choices were difficult, challenging or heart-breaking, they were – and still are – incredibly precious and valuable experiences that I look back on with a degree of pride in knowing that at least I went for it and gave it my all.

The dull ache of regret

However, what I STILL struggle with are those harder to reconcile ‘woulda-coulda-shoulda’ moments – the ones that linger on in the memory, resurfacing at regular intervals, accompanied  a churning feeling in the pit of the stomach – quite literally gut-wrenching!

They’re the feelings that keep dragging me down that well-worn path of ‘what if?’ without ever leading anywhere new! Regret for roads not taken can be particularly agonising as we transition into our Third Age where we often struggle to come to terms with who ‘we might have been’ and the sinking feeling that ‘it’s too late’.

The panic of closing doors

There’s no getting away from it, staring at that shut door hurts! It’s completely natural to respond with mixed emotions – including panic – as we say goodbye to one significant life stage and move into the next.

But let’s not forget the purpose behind the pain.  

It is important to make peace with the things that are changing or ending so that we are ready to explore our future options unhindered by feelings of loss and resentment. The upside is that these ‘endings’ are nothing to do with finality – they are simply a pre-condition of self-renewal and the start of a whole new chapter in our lives.

How do you deal with endings? Are you someone who holds on to your old ways for dear life, trying to avoid the pain of change? Or do you just move on, dismissing the old as if it didn’t count?

Well, you’ve probably discovered that neither option has served you particularly well. The first simply postpones the inevitable and the other fails to recognise that without closure on the past, moving on is difficult. The result of either option is that you forego the advantages of moving into a different stage of life.

So what do we DO with our regrets?

We ALL have them but have very different ways of dealing (or not dealing) with them. None of us can do anything about what’s gone but we can do an enormous amount with the future ahead of us

If we are willing to confront our regrets and disappointments and engage in an honest process of self-exploration, regrets CAN serve a very positive purpose – they can inspire, motivate and provide real clarity about how you want to live your life going forward.

Turn your regrets into a potent force for change

  • Acknowledge them!
    What are the things that you most regret? List them!
    What are the things you think about along the lines of, ‘If only’ or ‘What if I’?
    What do you repeatedly think about but dismiss as being ‘too late now’?
    Who was the person you wanted to be?
    Who is the self that you feel is now gone for good?
  • Listen with compassion to what your regrets are trying to tell you.  
    What lessons can you learn from this?
    How can you grow from it?
    What aspect of yourself is still waiting to be expressed?
    What can it tell you about the opportunities for renewal in your next evolution? What needs will you have to find other ways to fulfil?
  • And finally…. take action
    What can you now say yes to?
    What’s waiting in the wings ready to make its entrance? (You may not KNOW, but I bet you have a sense of what it could be.)

When one door closes...

I’ve come around to thinking that maybe a little Torschlusspanik is actually a healthy thing if it encourages us to engage in our transition and in doing so, motivates us into action!

So, is it time for YOU to close the door on your ‘shoulda, coulda, wouldas’… time to turn your back on them and walk forward, towards the adventures awaiting you behind the next new door?

While you’re thinking about that, I’d just like to leave you with this wonderfully appropriate piece of advice by Helen Keller:

“When one door closes another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

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Unlocking the power of purpose

Unlocking the power of PURPOSE

unlocking the power of purpose

When I typed ‘How do I find my purpose in life?’ into Google, it came up with 1,750,000,000 suggestions! Which tells me there’s an awful lot of people looking for the answer!

I guess it’s not surprising, given that NOT having a sense of purpose can leave us feeling aimless, unfulfilled and disconnected. In other words – LOST. At least, that’s how it felt for me!

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Sometimes it seems like everyone around you is discovering their purpose, and setting off to make their dreams into reality… and here you are, stuck on this basic question.

Is this it?
I’m here to make a difference… but doing what?
Isn’t there some way that I can use my skills and life experience to benefit others in some way?

A yearning for that all-important 'something'

I don’t know about you, but I reckon I’ve had each and every one of these thoughts in my time! And the thing that all these sentiments have in common is a yearning for purpose.

And THAT is a very powerful a feeling!

Purpose is unique to each and every one of us… for some it’s to do with legacy, for others it may be fulfilment or motivation. It isn’t necessarily one single thing but likely all are underpinned by the same values. 

I think ‘purpose’ is ever-changing throughout our lives. As a mum, my priorities changed from my career and my ‘purpose’  became focussed on my child’s health and happiness. As I got older I began turning towards my own personal purpose, having the luxury to choose what I most want to work and focus on, for my own happiness and satisfaction. 

This yearning for purpose takes centre stage by the time we reach our Third Age as we start to re-examine whether the way we’ve been living our lives still works for us now.

And if the answer is ‘no’ the realisation that we’re not ‘on purpose’ can become a powerful catalyst to actually DO something about it. The feeling that there must be ‘something more’ leads us to become a ‘seeker’ and sets us off on a journey of self-discovery and growth.

The trouble with purpose

Purpose often feels like a pretty elusive, intangible concept and added to that, the whole concept of a ‘life purpose’ somehow sounds loaded with lofty expectations! No wonder we find it intimidating and overwhelming to contemplate!

We don’t come with a pre-destined purpose But when we break it down, isn’t the question we’re really asking ourselves, “How can I live my life FULLY?” 

The magic ingredient!

You KNOW when someone is ‘on purpose’. You can see it. You can feel it. It’s a very attractive energy to be around! When I thought of all the people I know who have this energy, I realised that their purpose is about giving, not getting.

The magic ingredient sprinkled into everything they do is ‘contribution’.

purpose has a ripple effect

The ripple effect

To me THIS is the most exciting thing about purpose. 

Not only can our purpose create a radical transformation for ourselves and our own life but also for the people who are part of our purpose.

That’s the ripple effect.

My wonderful clients, choose to express their purpose in all sorts of different ways – writing a book, volunteering, community projects and advocacy. Some, like me, choose to create a business as a vehicle for their purpose. (It’s important to stress that their business is not their purpose – it’s a vehicle for their purpose. They build a business in order to deliver their purpose.)

My purpose is all about helping post menopausal women create something personally fulfilling and meaningful for their Third Age – to the benefit of themselves, their families and their communities…. the ripple effect in action!

Which brings us to the question we started with…how do you find your purpose?

Well, you could always type the question into Google in the hope that somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of answers that come up you’ll find the one that works for you! But it’s not a process I’d recommend… you might be looking for a very long time!

Purpose lives HERE

The thing is, your purpose isn’t ‘out there’ somewhere – it’s actually much, much closer to home than that. It’s a deeply personal thing and because it’s a deeply personal thing, it comes from within.

The good news is, it’s already there inside you – to find your purpose, you just need to dig deep and dig in the right place and start exploring how the threads of your unique experiences and perspectives weave together.

Here are a few ways you can get started:

  • Pay attention to the activities you gravitate toward in your free time. What do you most love doing that feels aligned, absorbing and enjoyable – the things you become so immersed in that you lose track of time? What part of you do they speak to?
  • What do people ask you for help with?  What do people compliment you on?
  • Make a list of people you most admire and then list their qualities. Chances are, you either already have those qualities, or you would like those qualities.. What can you do to cultivate them?
  • When you’re feeling most satisfied with your life, who are you with? What are you doing? What sort of environment are you in? What do those answers say about what’s important to you? And what can you do to bring about those conditions more often?
  • What have you struggled with in your life?  What challenges have you overcome? How can you make life better for others facing the same challenges now?
  • What do you stand for? What principles are most important to you? What would get you up on your soapbox? What do you stand against? What outrages you? What do you most want to change?

Everyone has a purpose within them

How about you? How do you define your purpose? Has your purpose evolved and changed? Or are you still searching? 

If you’re interested in hearing more, watch this video conversation where I talk about how you can use the acclaimed Ikigai framework to help you find that all-important inner clarity about who you are and what you uniquely have to offer. You can catch the conversation here .

‘What is the purpose of my life?’ is as much an invitation as it is a question – an invitation to reconnect. To reconnect with who you are and what gives you joy. To reconnect to the dreams and aspirations that are deeply important to you.

And as with anything that’s worthwhile, it does take effort. But the effort is an investment in what is arguably the most important reward available to us – the assurance that our lives matter.

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