You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know, so be Gentle with Yourself

By Jimmy Warden

In life, we often have things that we regret doing, not doing, and wish we knew better at the time of those events. After reflecting a lot about different aspects of my life, I have come to the conclusion that we should try to be a bit gentler with ourselves when it comes to having regrets, and it’s okay for us to not know what we don’t know. However, once we know better, it is vital that we do better.

There have been times in my life when I’ve made a decision and felt it was the right one, only in hindsight to realize that something else should have been done. Am I wrong for making that initial decision? Not necessarily. That’s where the idea of being gentler with myself comes into play. Reason being is that I was doing my best with what I knew at the time. It took the learning that came in hindsight for me to realize that I could’ve done better.

An example from my life that made me start to be more accepting of past decisions I have made is when I ran a marathon. Last summer, I ran a marathon with a friend to help raise money for the Vermont Food Bank, and help give meals to people in need. While training for the marathon, I did what I thought any novice runner should do. Slowly increase my mileage that I was running each week and taper off as I get closer to marathon day. The unfortunate part of this is that I only had about 6 weeks to train (I am not sure about the exact time frame, but it was much less than what expert running coaches would recommend is needed to train for a marathon). Needless to say, I tried my best with the little knowledge of marathon running that I had.

Not only that, but I thought that I should try to have some “tricks up my sleeve” by gathering electrolyte powders to mix with my water on the day of the marathon and try to purchase some snacks to have along the way (bananas, honey, Rx Bars, Clif Bars, etc.). My thought process behind that was that these items would give me a bit of extra fuel that I was going to need in order to actually run the entire marathon. Up and to that point the furthest I had run at one time was a shade over 14 miles.

Unfortunately, trying to consume these items while I was running my marathon turned out to be a huge mistake. The food and powder didn’t sit well with me while running, so it hindered my performance. Up and to that point I often ran fasted during my training. My last meal was usually around 7-8pm the night before my runs and I tended to do my training runs in the morning after consuming a healthy amount of water and black coffee. Even though I was kicking myself post race for doing consuming items I wasn’t use to consuming while running and not bringing enough water with me, I still was doing the best with what I thought I knew.

The lesson from this story can apply to any area of life. Whether it be something in your relationships, your occupation, or your personal life; we often don’t have enough knowledge to best handle moments of our lives that we have yet to experience. This is a big reason why we fear the unknown and become unsure of ourselves. We try to do our best with what we think would be useful in those situations and hope that the rest falls into place. Then, when things do not fall into place as we anticipated, we have regrets.

As for the final message, I’m trying to convey that we need to be a bit gentler with ourselves when it comes to having regrets. I’m not saying don’t have regrets because that could send the message that we’ve done everything perfectly in our lives, but rather I’m saying that we should learn from our regrets. We should learn from them and not be as hard on ourselves as we usually are because we didn’t have the appropriate level of knowledge at the time of the actions we took. Then, once we have that knowledge, we can do better in those areas of our lives where we have regrets.

If we can take that approach on, maybe we will one day get to a point of not having regrets because we’ll have the wisdom that we needed the mistakes to have our current level of understanding.

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