The Secret to No Regrets


Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who had asked to meet for a coffee for a bit of advice. She was, as she put it, “on the horns of a dilemma”.

Without going into all the details, the situations is as follows: She is a very senior executive in a well known multi-national, and has been offered the opportunity to join a very exciting techno start up, with all the offers of shares, excitement, challenge etc.

Obviously, she just wanted to hear herself talk about it out loud and have a sounding board, and ultimately she will make her own decision. But, what I found interesting when I reflected upon the conversation was what she focused on!

She focused on what might happen to her if it all went pear shaped! I don’t say this to criticize because I think we all tend to do the same thing in similar circumstances.

The consequence is that we focus so much time thinking on what can go wrong, that side of the “debate” gets all the air time, and, strangely, we convince ourselves that we have weighed up all the options.

But have we? Have we not just focused on the downside?

I think the better approach is a piece that I have come across from a really good read: “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die” by John Izzo, and I am sharing it here exactly as John wrote it, as I think it is worth sharing with you:

How do we take more risks in the direction of what we want? How can we live so as not to regret the steps we did not take?

Perhaps my greatest teacher in this process was a woman in her seventies who had grown up in Germany during World War II. As she looked back on her life, she told me that the most important crossroads were times she had to act with courage and not fear. For example, after the war, things were very difficult in Germany. At the age of 22, Elsa took the first of many significant risks in her life. She decided to move to Canada and start a new life. At the time, she did not know one person in Canada, had no job prospects, and did not know the language. She told me that, in retrospect, although the decision felt very risky at the time, it was the turning point in her life.

When I asked her how she took important risks, she told me: “Whenever I had a risk I was considering, I would begin to imagine the highest possible good that could occur by taking that risk. I would imagine all the things that could be true if the risk worked out. Then I would imagine the worst possible thing that could happen if I took the risk. I would ask if I could handle the worst, and every time I knew I could handle the worst. Maybe I move to Canada and it does not work out. I wind up broke and alone, and I knew I could always come home. But then I imagined the highest possibility, that I would start a new life; that I would make many friends, find love and raise children in this new country. Then I held that image in front of me. Whenever I began wavering, I would imagine the greatest good I was striving for. I would always remind myself that walking away from the good that was possible was far worse than the consequence of failure.” 

A great lesson for all of us!!


John A Murphy


John Murphy has been running his own consultancy business, John Murphy International, for over 10 years.

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