05 Sep Have no regrets
A chalkboard was placed in the middle of New York City recently. It invited people who passed by to write down their biggest regrets. What followed was fascinating. Remarkably, people stopped in front of the empty chalkboard and had the courage to write down the things they regretted most. Gradually the chalkboard filled up with moving statements of regret and words of remorse. You can watch a short film clip of what happened here:
What the film clip shows is that all the responses had something in common. The regrets people write about were of chances not taken, words not spoken or dreams not followed. Mark Twain captured this type of disappointment well when he wrote, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” There’s a lovely children’s poem by Shel Silverstein called “Whatif”. It captures beautifully the way in which little doubts and fears can paralyse us into inactivity and create the potential for regret. It begins:
Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song!
One of the valuable qualities we hope to develop in young people at Woodstock is that they will become risk-takers. I don’t mean foolhardy or reckless! I came across a good definition of what I mean when I was reading some material about the International Baccalaureate programme recently. It put it like this: Risk Takers, “approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.”
"As parents, it is hard to deal with our children’s failures, shortcomings and blunders – and especially when they seem to have been avoidable."
One of the best ways to allow these characteristics to grow is by making it possible for young people to make mistakes, to fail, to come up short and to disappoint. We all know that failure can be an important teacher. It’s said that failure is one of the greatest teachers in the universe! I’ve also heard it said that good schools help students to learn from success whereas great schools enable students to learn from failure.
"When we see our children’s failures as a stepping stone on the path to growth and an opportunity to learn, we eradicate the debilitating impact of regret on our lives and theirs."
As parents, it is hard to deal with our children’s failures, shortcomings and blunders – and especially when they seem to have been avoidable. But being immovable and stubborn in the face of our children’s mistakes risks turning them into cautious and timid souls – individuals who go through life “playing it safe” and never truly achieving their potential or unleashing their greatness.
When we see our children’s failures as a stepping stone on the path to growth and an opportunity to learn, we eradicate the debilitating impact of regret on our lives and theirs.
Mark Twain’s words about regret end with an inspiring encouragement to become risk-takers, to seize opportunities and to reach out towards what is possible – even if it means encountering failure along the way: “So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in sails. Explore. Dream. Discover!”
Dr Jonathan Long, Principal