Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience. – Victoria Holt
What is Regret?
Regret is an uncomfortable feeling indicating that something you did or failed to do can’t be changed. It’s a sense-of-loss you feel about something. This sense-of-loss can stem from a missed opportunity or a disappointment of some sort. You are feeling uncomfortable because you wish things were different, you wish you made a different decision that could potentially reverse past actions, circumstances or spoken words. By feeling regretful you have successfully taken responsibility for what has transpired, however, you’re not comfortable with the outcome.
Regret doesn’t feel good, however, every emotion you experience has a purpose — a reason why you are feeling this particular emotion. Understanding why you are experiencing this emotion will help you to determine the best course of action moving forward.
Feeling regretful presents an opportunity for you to improve on past decisions or mistakes. It’s a chance for you to correct things in the future. You might of course not be able to change what happened or reverse events, however, you can certainly learn from this experience, which can become a catalyst for positive change.
It’s absolutely critical that you use regret as a platform for improvement. Allowing it to take a hold of you emotionally can often lead to bitterness, sorrow, guilt, and depression. Wallowing in regret will also tend to keep you moving through an endless repetitive cycle of mistakes that will lead to more regrets and disappointments in the future.
Moving Beyond Regret
Okay, things have happened, you just made a mistake or made a bad decision, and you’re now wishing you had done things differently. You feel regretful about everything and it’s eating you alive from the inside out. Here is a four-step process that will help you to move beyond this regretful experience successfully:
Step 1: Accept Where You Are Right Now
Your first step is to fully accept where you are in your life right at this very moment. Things might have happened unexpectedly, or too quickly, and maybe your good intentions are now weighing heavily on your shoulders. The worst thing you can do is to deny what just happened. Don’t deny things. Instead, take responsibility for your past behavior, decisions, and actions. Only by taking full responsibility can you take control of your emotional responses to help lay the path forward for positive change.
Step 2: Assess Your Current Situation
Having taken full responsibility for what just happened, now comes time to assess the situation. First of all, assess your regrets objectively by honestly acknowledging your losses. Ask yourself:
What do I regret?
Is it something I did?
Is it something I failed to do?
Were things within my control?
Sometimes things might have happened that were out of your control. Yes, you might of course still feel regretful about the situation, however, if something wasn’t fully within your control, then realistically there was nothing you could potentially do to avoid it. In such instances, feel disappointed for how things transpired, but not regretful about the circumstances.
If however, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion that it was your behavior that has triggered this regret, then ask yourself:
How did my behavior create this?
What decisions led to these events?
It’s important that you gain clarity about what exactly transpired and how you got yourself into this situation. The more clarity you have about these things, the more information you will have to work with within the remaining two steps of this process.
Step 3: Take Inventory to Learn from Experience
It’s now time to take inventory of yourself and learn from this experience. Ask yourself:
What could I have done differently?
What could I have done better?
How could I possibly prevent this from happening in the future?
What else could I learn from this experience?
Consider all the things you could take away from this experience to help improve your choices, decisions, behavior, and actions in the future.
Regrets are there to help you learn more about yourself and more about life. Use them as a platform for improvement, and not as a platform for self-destruction.
Step 4: Develop a Plan of Action
You now have all the information and insights you need to help you lay down a concrete plan of action moving forward.
When drawing up your plan of action, take into consideration how you must adjust your habits, behavior, and approach accordingly. Ask yourself:
What habits must I not indulge in?
What behaviors must I avoid?
How must I modify my approach for next time?
What new decisions will I make the next time around?
In order to avoid future regret, you will probably need to modify one or more of these areas. If you fail to do this, then you will continue to repeat the cycle over and over again, which will lead to further regrets and future problems.
Once you have gained proper clarity about the areas you will need to change, it is now important that you take immediate action. Don’t wait for the perfect moment or time. If you do, then this regret will keep eating you alive. You must decide what you could potentially do today at this very moment that will help you to move forward in a positive way. Ask yourself:
What can I do today that would help me move forward beyond this regret?
Take consistent steps to change things, and continue to learn from your experiences and mistakes. Things will no doubt be better in the future, as long as you are proactive about the changes that you must now make.
No matter how hard you try, the one thing that is inevitable is that at some point you will feel regretful about something you did or failed to do. This is natural. Don’t resist this experience. However, at the same time don’t allow it to overwhelm you and affect other areas of your life.
There are actually things you can do immediately the moment regret strikes that will help you to take control of your emotional responses to the situation. However, it’s not only about control. These suggestions will also help you to lay down a positive path for change, moving forward.
Focus on the Present Moment
The moment you begin feeling regretful about something, pay attention to what you’re focusing on. If you’re focusing on things you can no longer control, then your mind isn’t being directed in an optimal way.
Whatever happened, happened. Instead of focusing on things you wish you could have done differently, take time to stay present in the moment. Focus instead on being mindful. Focus on your breathing and on what is happening around you right now. This will ground you, relax you, and help you to temporarily separate yourself from the regretful events.
Focus on Forgiveness
Now comes time to forgive yourself. Things happened that you no longer have any control over, and you must now forgive yourself. You made a mistake. It happens. You’re human.
Alternatively, you might need to seek the forgiveness of others. Do this as soon as possible even if you feel that other people might not forgive you. At the very least your conscious will be free to move forward. And if for some reason the person isn’t there to give their forgiveness, then just imagine them forgiving you.
Focus on Positive Aspects
Forgiveness now frees you up to move forward. As a result, take time now to reflect on the situation and have a think about the positive aspects of what just happened. Things might initially seem quite bleak, however, there could be a silver lining that you’re not seeing. You might need to shift your perspective in some way. Ask yourself:
What’s positive about this situation?
What is the silver lining?
How could I think about this differently?
What’s another perspective of this situation that I could take into account?
Focus on Taking Control
If there doesn’t appear to be a silver lining, then there might be a way you could potentially take control of the situation. Ask yourself:
What could I potentially control here?
What could I potentially change?
You might not be able to turn events back to the way they were, however, you might be able to gain some form of control that will help you to improve the situation.
Eliminate Toxic Language
Whenever things don’t go your way, it’s absolutely critical that you avoid making things worse by indulging in toxic language. Toxic language will just keep you feeling helpless and stuck in the past.
Have a think about a time when you regretted doing something. What kind of language did you tend to use during those moments?
- If only I had…
- Why didn’t I…
- I should have…
- I would have…
- I could have…
This kind of language will only make you feel terrible. There are no solutions to be found here. You will only dig yourself into a bigger toxic emotional mess that will affect other areas of your life. In fact, using this kind of language will often make you feel so miserable that in your mind you will blow your regrets out of proportion — making things out to be a lot worse than they really are. What’s the point of reliving past events if you cannot use them to help improve your future?
Instead of using this kind of language, think about ways you could learn from this experience and move forward.
Don’t Indulge in People’s Sympathies
Indulging in people’s sympathies might initially make you feel better about what just happened, however, these people are not being helpful. They are just feeling sorry for you. Unless they are helping you to learn from this experience to better yourself in the future, then you are wasting your time talking to them.
Instead, take time to discuss your regrets with close family members and friends who can help you to lay down a positive course of action moving forward. Who knows, they might even be able to provide you with a different perspective on the situation, which will help ease the regrets you are feeling in the moment.
Help Others Overcome Regret
One of the best ways to immediately get over your regrets is to help another person overcome their regrets.
Talk with other people about the things they regret and help them to view these situations from a different perspective. Maybe the act of actually helping someone else shift their perspective about their regrets, can at the same time help you to view your regrets in a more empowering way.
Living an Inspired Life
Living a life of regret for the things you could or should have done is no way to live. Choose instead to live an inspired life — taking full advantage of every moment and opportunity that comes your way. There are no regrets when you’re living an inspired life. There are only promises and hope for a better future.
Here are some suggestions to help you live an inspired life starting today:
Share Your Joys and Passions
Spend time sharing your joys and passions with the world. When you’re living with passion and sharing that passion with others, you won’t have the energy to regret things. In fact, many times the act of not living our passions is what we will most regret at the end of our lives. Don’t let this be you.
Follow Your Own Path
Living an inspired life means that you are following your own path and your own dreams. So many people are forced onto a path by others that they completely lose touch with their own dreams.
People will often say and do whatever they feel is right. What might be right for them, may very well not be right for you. Everyone has their own opinion and perspective about things. This perspective is colored by their own beliefs, values, and assumptions. Does this make it wrong? Not necessarily. Does it make it right? Not necessarily. It’s just an opinion. Use it to help you make better decisions moving forward, however, don’t build your life solely based on what other people think is best for you.
At one point or another many people realize that they are on a path that brings them no fulfillment or long-term satisfaction, and then at the end of their lives they look back and regret the fact that they allowed others to steal away their dreams. Don’t let this be you.
Focus on Self-Improvement
There are so many things you can learn in this world. Have a think about all the skills you could learn to master, or all the knowledge you could potentially gain. All these things are available as long as you are willing to go out there and make them your own.
Think of all the ways you could improve yourself, your relationships with other people, and the world around you. You have the power to instigate these changes today. However, many people only think about these things and never really take any positive action to make these things tangible in their lives. Don’t let this be you.
Make Health Your Top Priority
It’s so easy to skimp out on that exercise regime or to order take-away one too many times during the week. It’s also so easy to indulge in alcohol and to overeat till your heart’s content. These are all instant gratification traps. They feel so good and pleasurable in the moment. However, the long-term consequences of these decisions will hurt you in significant ways.
You might feel healthy and happy at the moment, however, this is only temporary. Your habits of indulgence are slowly robbing you of your health, and before you know it, you end up going through a significant health scare that results in a trip to the hospital. Then on your hospital bed, you will be thinking about all those little decisions you made that you now regret. But now it’s too late. Who knows if you will ever regain that same vigor you had when you were younger? Don’t let this be you.
Try New Things
Try new things. Experiment and step outside your comfort zone. Your greatest adventures await you when you do something different, something scary, or something risky. It is during these moments when you’re truly living and experiencing life in all its glory. Therefore say “yes” more often to new experiences, and make a habit of doing something new and different that can help you to expand your horizons.
In fact, welcome variety into your life. Embrace new music, culture, and the arts. All of these things will help you add another incredible layer to your life that will make every moment worth living. However, for most people, this is certainly not how they will choose to live their lives. They will not try new things and will avoid variety at all costs, and instead live a mundane existence. And then at the end of life, they don’t end up regretting the things they did, but rather the things that they failed to do, or never even attempted. They failed to seize those opportunities when they were there, and now those opportunities are gone forever. Don’t let this be you.
Add Value to the Lives of Others
Spend time adding value to the lives of other people in some way. This might be through a business, a charity, or simply by being more caring and going out of your way to help make other people’s lives better.
Every time you reach out to someone else, you create a new friendship and bond that can literally last a lifetime. It’s these relationships that could potentially help you to get through some of the toughest periods of your own life. However, many people don’t give enough of themselves to add value to the lives of others. Then at the end of their lives, they feel lonely and miserable, and consequently, regret all those opportunities they had to make a difference in this world. Don’t let this be you.
Tell People You Love Them
Spend time telling the people closest to you how much you love and care for them. It’s so easy to take these people for granted and to devalue the positive impact they have had on your life. In fact, it happens more often than not, where you see someone lose a loved one way too soon and unexpectedly — never even getting a chance to tell them how they really feel. This feeling eats people alive, and the regrets can get incredibly overwhelming. If only they had told their loved one how they felt before this loss… If only they had said it more often. If only… Don’t let this be you.
Spend Your Time Wisely
Spend your time wisely on the most important things that have the greatest meaning in your life. In fact, if you are not living a life built on your core values and passions, then you are not really living at all. You are just taking up space living life without purpose.
Define what it is you’re most passionate about, gain clarity about your core values, and live your life with a purpose every single minute of every day. Also spend your time wisely with people who motivate, inspire, love and support you. These are the people that will be there for you when things get difficult, and these are the people you will think fondly of at the end of your life.
Many people reach the end of their own lives and wish that they could have spent their time differently on things that mattered most to them. However, at that stage, it’s too late. They never got a chance to experience life as it should have been lived. Don’t let this be you.
Overcome Your Fears
Your fears are there to help make life interesting and exciting. They are there to help you learn new things and experience the world from a different perspective. In fact, your fears are there to help you learn and grow into your full potential as a human being. They are there to help you break new boundaries and to live the life of your dreams. However, many people see their fears as these terrible monsters that they are afraid to confront. And yet at the end of their lives, they regret all the things that they failed to do because their fears controlled their decisions and actions. Don’t let this be you.
Welcome Life Transitions and Changes
It’s natural for human beings to resist the natural transitions of life and the changes that often take place. It’s often those surprising changes that hit us unexpectedly that create the biggest resistance. However, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, often it can be a very good thing. It’s the act of resisting these changes that make life difficult and unbearable.
The one thing certain about life is that things will change. Nothing will ever stay the same no matter how hard you try to maintain the status-quo. Life is in a constant flux and transition, and so are you. Don’t resist these changes. Embrace them and make the most use of them to help you move your life forward.
Consider that in the moment, you have a very limited perspective of where this change will take you in the future. It is only in the future when you reflect back on these changes that you will realize how important and significant they actually were for your growth and development. However, most people never realize this because they resisted the changes that life throws their way. Don’t let this be you.
Don’t Destroy Your Relationships
Don’t spend time holding grudges, projecting your negative emotions onto other people, complaining, making excuses, judging, deceiving and disrespecting others. You live in a social world, and this social world is built upon the strength of your relationships with other people. If these bonds are solid, then this will lead to positive life experiences. On the other hand, if these bonds are weak, then you will ultimately suffer the consequences of a life filled with so much promise but little to show for it — simply because the support you needed from others wasn’t there.
At the end of life people often regret the conflicts they had with others and the unfulfilled promise of their relationships — desperately wishing they had done things differently. Don’t be one of these people.
Your life is completely in your hands. It’s your choice to either live it with purpose or with regret. What choice will you make today?
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 4 Ways to Minimize Lifetime Regrets @ Life Optimizer
- 10 Choices You Will Regret in Ten Years @ Marc and Angel
- 10 Ways to Live Life Without Regrets @ Huffington Post
- 12 Ways to Live Without Regrets @ Huffington Post
- 20 Signs You Really do Live a Life Without Regrets @ Thought Catalogue
- 21 Tips for More Meaning and Less Regret in Your Life @ The Bold Life
- 30 Ways to Live Life Without Regrets @ The Bridgemaker
- 40 Ways to Live Life Without Regrets @ Tiny Buddha
- How to Live a Life Without Regrets @ Inc.
- Make Sure You’ll Smile When You Look Back on Your Life @ Tiny Buddha
- The Secret to a Life Without Regrets @ Huffington Post
- You Can’t Change the Past – Why Talk About it? @ Psychology Today