For 2 years after finishing school, I tried to get into an Engineering College. I felt more for Literature but was too scared to take the path less traveled, so I chose Engineering. I tried all the engineering tests there were, but could not get through any for 2 years. Those 2 years I was sitting at home. Once in college, I always had a feeling of guilt for having wasted my time. Later, when I passed out from the college, I did not get a job right away, I joined Infosys Technologies Limited a whole 1 year later. The people who joined alongside me were 3-4 years younger. I felt the guilt even more.
I had a recurring dream at that time. I would see that I have failed a class in college and am now studying with my juniors. In the dream, I would feel unbearably guilty and ashamed for having wasted time.
Do you have similar feelings in life?
Often in our lives, we stop and think about where we stand, how much ground we have covered, what we have done so far. We compare our progress with others and with what we had imagined it would be. Often we realize it has not been enough, often we see that we missed opportunities, were careless and complacent. We let life pass by. This sometimes induces an overwhelming sense of guilt and despair. People have been induced to extreme ends, like suicide, under these feelings.
Benefits of guilt
But for all the trouble associated with guilt, it can have it’s own benefits, depending on how we handle it. Guilt is a clear indicator of where our desires lie and what we need to do to feel happier. You can turn this feeling around and use it as a motivator. I did that.
The guilt I felt after joining Infosys, was so overwhelming that I was totally consumed by it. I was almost the age of some managers there. At one point, in a group of about 100, I was among the senior most in age and among the junior most in professional experience. I hated myself for a long time. After a few months, having felt bad every second in the office, I decided to change things. I accepted my situation for what it was, I decided to stop feeling bad and do something about it.
Getting over your guilt
The first step to improve your situation, is to accept your guilt . Accept that you are feeling bad about something and that you are mad at your self. As soon as you do this, the pain lessens and you feel some control and positivity sinking into you.
Analyze your guilt. There is something that you want badly in life but you don’t have. Guilt arises due to your focus on what you have not done so far to get the object of your desire. To remove guilt, shift the focus, bring it to rest firmly upon the object of your desire. Keep it there. If it wavers, consciously bring it back. Don’t beat yourself up when it wavers, just bring it back gently, as soon as you realize it.
My guilt of having wasted time was related to my desire of becoming professionally successful, earning a lot of money, having a secure life. Realizing this, I resolved to focus on taking the necessary steps in this direction. I took up to improve my technical knowledge. I decided that I will become good at my job and switch companies. I will do this until I got the position and salary that made me feel satisfied.
This drive took over my life. All that I did, for the next 2 years, was work and study. I cleared some certifications on my own, I got through another company. My professional presence improved and I felt better. The dream that haunted me, slowly faded away.
Your focus determines everything
Whether your guilt will help you or break you, will depend upon where you put your focus on. You can either focus on what you have lost, what you have done wrong, or, you can shift your focus on doing something towards the associated desire. If something is causing you a lot of guilt, you have to make a commitment to work towards the desired goal attached to this guilt. That desire, is demanding fulfillment.
The greater the guilt, the greater the effort and commitment required towards the associated desire to feel at peace. The greater the guilt, the greater the growth experience and freedom you experience when you work at the desire.
Make a commitment to work towards that desire starting right away and then get at it. Remember, guilt can have only as much power over you as you allow.
It is never too late, never. You might feel that the loss can never be made up for. I am here to tell you, it can. You can make a positive change in your life and be happy, whenever you choose to.