A still from 'The Age of Adaline' film featuring Blake Lively.
A still from 'The Age of Adaline' film featuring Blake Lively and Michiel Huisman. Credit: The Age of Adaline Credit: The Age of Adaline

Change is an inevitable facet of life. The human experience is marked by transitions, some welcome and others unwelcome. Looking at change as something to be grateful for may not be someone’s first instinct. Along the same lines, regret can prevent us from being grateful for what is as we dwell on what could have been. 

Over this past weekend, a few things happened that got me thinking about gratitude, resistance to change, and regrets. On Friday night, I was invited into a world that skillfully explores the intricate relationship between practicing gratitude, grappling with resistance to change and carrying the heavy burden of regrets. In the 2015 film, The Age of Adaline, the main character, Adaline, miraculously stops aging after a near-fatal accident in 1935. The film provides a poignant illustration of how these elements intertwine to shape an individual’s capacity to appreciate the present (at least I think it does). 

In our lives (and workplaces), we are faced with constant change. For some of us, we have regrets about choices we have made or things we have done (or not done) – present company included. I don’t know why, but when I watched Adaline’s story unfold, I started to think about how to appreciate what is versus what should be or what could have been. 

My foyer into this thinking was exasperated when I made a choice on Saturday (due to uncontrollable circumstances) to cancel on a friend. Shortly after making that choice, I became plagued with regret. As I stumbled into the evening, my partner and I were gifted with a Buddha statue. As the night went on, and as I grew tired of agonizing over what had transpired early in the day, I did start to think about “what’s good” and what I could learn and do differently. 

My following thoughts may come across as “easier said than done” rhetoric, but believe me, I’ve resisted change, worn regret as a weight on my shoulders, and buried away my ability to be grateful for all that I have; and, although what I’m about to share is working for me, that is turning to gratitude way of being, I am still very much a work in progress when it comes to this battle within. 

The battle within

The key reason change is often challenging is our inherent resistance to leaving our comfort zones. 

Human beings naturally gravitate towards familiar routines, environments and habits because they provide a sense of security and predictability. Change disrupts this equilibrium, triggering uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Our brains are wired to resist change as a protective mechanism. The Conscious Leadership Group has a fabulous video worth watching to understand this concept. This resistance can manifest as procrastination, self-doubt, or a preference for the status quo. For me all three of these things show up. 

Overcoming this resistance requires conscious effort, self-awareness and a willingness to embrace uncertainty, which can be uncomfortable, but is often necessary for personal growth and progress. In order to overcome resistance we need to access courage, be open to risk, not place expectations on what will happen, and be okay with it not working out as expected. 

For me, it’s about honing in on the influencers of my intentions – including psychological priorities and needs. A classic business book that explores the concept of psychological priorities and their significance is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. While the book primarily focuses on personal and professional development, it delves into the idea of identifying and aligning your psychological priorities with your actions and goals. 

Regret typically arises from a sense of disappointment or remorse over past choices, actions, or missed opportunities. It often occurs when individuals feel that they could have made better decisions or taken different paths in their lives. Regret stems from the human tendency to reflect on past experiences and contemplate what might have been, particularly when the consequences of those choices are unfavorable. It serves as a reminder of the complexity of decision-making and the desire for a better outcome. 

Actress Jennifer Aniston has said: “There are no regrets in life, just lessons.”I believe this leans into how regret can be a powerful motivator for learning and personal growth while prompting folks to make more informed choices in the future.

Regret and resistance to change can form a formidable barrier to gratitude. 

Regret, often rooted in past decisions or actions, can cloud one’s perspective on the present and future. When we are weighed down by the “what ifs” and “should haves,” it becomes challenging to appreciate the gifts that currently surround us. 

Resistance to change, on the other hand, keeps us anchored in our comfort zones, preventing us from embracing new experiences and opportunities. This resistance often stems from fear of the unknown or a desire to maintain the status quo. As a result, we might miss out on recognizing the potential for growth and happiness that change can bring. 

Gratitude conquers

This past weekend brought me The Age of Adaline, a choice I regret and a Buddha statue as a gift for our backyard. As I prepared to write this article, I did spend some time cultivating gratitude. I did this by writing down what I am grateful for and taking some time to calm my thoughts through meditation. I also talked through how I was feeling with my partner and reached out to friends that I miss and want to see. I feel lighter, and I believe reacquainting myself with gratitude helped me to overcome resistance to changing my behaviours. Behaviours that were causing me to have regrets.  

The actions I took were led by a positive and forward-looking mindset. Perhaps a little bit like Adaline, I shifted my focus from dwelling on past mistakes or fearing the unknown future to appreciating the present and recognizing the good in my life. My hope is that this shift in perspective can help me embrace change with a more open and optimistic attitude.  

Gratitude encourages individuals to let go of the past and approach the future with a sense of hope and resilience, ultimately making it easier to overcome resistance to change and move forward despite regrets. And so, I leave you with three ways to practice gratitude (which I have tried and plan to continue to practice): 

  • Write down things you are grateful for each day. This simple practice helps shift your focus from regrets and anxieties to positive aspects of your life. It encourages you to actively seek out moments of gratitude and reflection.
  • Try mindfulness meditation which involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It can help break the cycle of rumination over past regrets and ease the fear of change. Through mindfulness, you learn to accept the present as it is, appreciating the beauty in the now.
  • Embody self-compassion by being understanding toward yourself when you feel inadequate; accept your humanity

Regret and resistance to change may be obstacles but by turning to gratitude you can overcome these challenges. 

Navigating regret, embracing change, and cultivating gratitude are intertwined processes that can lead to a more fulfilling and content life.

Jodi Rai

Jodi is a People & Culture + HR Consultant, Coach, and Trainer on a mission to create a world where humanity is prioritized in workplaces and their communities. She has reimagined the traditionally...