REGRET

When I look back at some of the most painful moments of my life, I see myself sitting alone, feeling either immense shame or regret. Regret is the only gift you will never have. Regret is a negative emotion that occurs when a person believes his or her past actions or behaviors, if changed, may have achieved a better outcome. For example, a person might feel bad about the way he or she has spent his or her life and be plagued by regret.

Regret tends to be a long-lasting emotion, and people might say that they are plagued by feelings of regret that they cannot eliminate. However, regret can also be a short-lived feeling. For example, a child might regret tripping his or her sister and then quickly move past these feelings.

It’s bizzare how we can get so offended and angry when other people hurt us, and yet repeatedly choose to torture ourselves, far worse than they possibly could, through mental rehashing. We often express the emotion of regret to others in the form of an apology. Have you ever done something that you deeply regret? Do you wish you could go back and change what happened? For the longest time, my biggest regret revolve around the past decisions I made in life.

POSITIVE EFFECTS OF REGRET

Regret can be beneficial by helping the person experiencing it gain insight and improve future decision-making skills. Regret can also be helpful because it signals the need for a corrective action, which can push people into implementing that action.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF REGRET

Even though regret may bring positive change to one’s life, regret is more commonly associated with the negative effects, it can have on a person’s happiness. Regret may lead to: A bias in one’s decision-making, Anxiety caused by repeatedly thinking about the perceived better choice or behavior; Chronic feelings of sadness and dysphoria; Varying degrees of guilt; Shame; Depression; Self-Blame.

At any moment I could let go of the weight of who I would have been and allow myself be at a better chance of becoming who I want to be. What I did or didn’t do could either paralyze me further or motivate me to do something now, something not conceived in reaction to past disappointments but born completely from a moment of strength and empowerment. How do you move on and learn to live life with no regrets? We have all done things in life that we would not necessarily go back and do again, but does that mean we must live with regret? Here are a couple of my thoughts on how to live without regrets:

•Vent to God: Tell God to guide and help you, make good and right decisions in life. The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

•Everyone makes mistakes: When we acknowledge our weaknesses, there is often an implied sense of judgment, as if we should never make any mistake. Making mistakes is a normal part of life. It’s as natural as breathing in and breathing out. They are what help us to grow and learn. They are what help us become different versions of ourselves. Most big mistakes present instant changes to reality as you know it. There’s a quote that reads “Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction”. If your mistake propels you towards a better future, then it’s actually blessing in disguise. The next time you are feeling burdened by regret, try saying to yourself: “I freely forgive myself for any mistake that I have ever made”. And repeat it. If you do that, and actually forgive yourself, you can move forward and get on with your life. Don’t let what you did in the past, stop you from living life. Stop sawing the sawdust.

•Let yourself off the hook: One of the greatest problems in life is that we don’t forgive ourselves for the mistakes that we’ve made. We carry them around and we beat ourselves up about them. Understand this, the person who did those things in your past is not the same person you are today. In fact, you are a completely different person with different sequences, different knowledge, different wisdom and different insights. The person who did those things that you regret is not you. It was a younger version of yourself. Almost like another person all together. So let yourself off the hook.

•Look for the Lesson: Finally, try to ask yourself; What did I learn from this experience? What is this experience trying to teach me? Should I be doing more of something or less of something so I don’t make this same mistake again? If you look into your most difficult experiences for a lesson, you will always find one. As long as you learn from each experience, and take that learning with you to other experiences, that is progress. That’s living without regret.

Strengthen your ability to focus on things you can control: If you cheated on your girlfriend after having too much to drink, you probably wish you could go back and show more restraint. Unfortunately, what you should have done is now irrelevant. All you can do is move forward from where you are. This is an invaluable skill because it empowers us to take positive action instead of falling into shame cycle. Get better at accepting responsibility. There’s something empowering about saying, “I screwed up and I accept the consequences”.

Embrace impermanence: Everything in life is impermanent. Appreciate everyone and everything in the moment. There are no guarantees in life, even if we may make very few mistakes.

•Evaluate your friendships & relationships: Think of this as your “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment. You’re down on your luck and vulnerable. You have to do some major life restructuring to rebound from whatever you just experienced. Are your friends there for you, offering forgiveness and support even if it takes them a little time to get there? If not, this may be a perfect time to remove unhealthy friendships & relationships from your life. This may also give you a chance to strengthen your friendships & relationships. If you hurt someone else, take this opportunity to discover what really motivated your actions and then let yourself get vulnerable with them. We’re all human, and nothing brings us together like acknowledging our universal struggles.

•Therapy: Therapy can be a useful tool to help you or someone you know cope with feelings of regret. When people spend years fixating on a regrettable choice they often need help to move past it, and seeking a therapist can help people talk through, understand and move beyond regret.

The crazy thing about regret is that it seems imperative sometimes, as if we have to indulge it like a bed we made and now have to lie in. But there is nothing compelling us to dwell on the way things could have been. The only thing that keeps us stock in lost possibilities is the refusal to focus on new ones. Before we wrap up, I would like to leave you with a thought to share with your friends and loved ones: “Your life today is the result of all your choices and decisions in the past. When you make new choices, you create a new future”.

Life is now, and we always have a choice. Do we drown in regret over what never came to be or use our energy to create what can be? Today, I am choosing the latter.

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