Regrets are something that everyone will encounter in life, but trying to avoid them often causes additional problems. While having regrets is normal and not something to be ashamed of, it’s vital that regrets don’t run your life or prevent you from making intelligent decisions for your future.
Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & Regular about things we regret not buying, and keep reading below for some ways to help you shed the regrets you may feel and how to create a brighter future for yourself and your family.
Understand your regrets.
Regrets come in many different forms and can be attached to past actions or future choices. It’s often a negative emotion that involves shame, guilt or blame for past actions or a missed opportunity. While everyone has regrets, it can be easy for some people to let regret take over their life and prevent them from making healthy decisions moving forward, either out of guilt and shame or the fear of making the same mistake in the future.
If fear of regret is keeping you from making an important decision in your life, sit with your journal or a sheet of paper and consider the following:
Get out of your head.
Most of us have an endless loop in our heads of the wrong or hurtful things we’ve done. While most of that is embarrassing, there may also be genuine harm you’ve caused that you can’t take back. It can be easy to beat yourself up, but it’s also important to remember that you can’t change the past, and getting stuck in your head only makes it harder for you to move forward.
Cataloguing your regrets can often get you stuck in a loop of thinking about how bad or worthless you are. Instead of just listing our regret after regret with no end in sight, consider setting a timer for five minutes and writing down all of your regrets that come up in that time frame.
The goal is to get these memories on paper and out of your head so that you can free up space for rational thought. Remember that you aren’t trying to get every single regret you have ever had out in this small time frame. You may need to revisit this exercise several times over a period of time as you work through and process the memories that come up each time.
Observe your emotions.
Once the timer dings and you have your list of regrets, stop and consider each line. Try to sort them into Past and Future categories, i.e. is your memory about something hurtful or unfortunate that you said or did in the past? Or are you worried about making a decision that could negatively impact your future?
Then, match the emotions in your memories to each of your regrets and see if sentiments are repeated. Having a therapist or counselor to help you sort through everything can be helpful in this situation.
Once you have a list of emotions written down, consider what your list tells you about pain you may be holding unnecessarily. If you need to apologize or make amends to the people you hurt, do so if it won’t cause further harm to you or them.
If your regrets are about a road not taken or a future choice, dive deeper into the situation and try to gain some perspective so that you can take action without getting stuck in an unhelpful thought loop.
Learn from your mistakes.
Making mistakes can be painful, but learning the lesson that they teach you can be priceless. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, even the people you admire, and it’s much more important to focus on the lesson learned rather than any embarrassment about your error.
We’ve all felt foolish from time to time, but if those feelings make you shy away from ever taking a chance, you’re holding yourself back from truly learning the lesson and making a change.
Go back to your list of regrets and consider the lessons you learned in each situation. While some of them may be painful or embarrassing, the chances are good that you learned from that experience and can apply the lessons to your life going forward.
Focus on growth.
It can be tempting to think that one therapy session or one exercise can fix years of pain or avoidance. Remember that understanding yourself and your past takes time and rushing doesn’t help you solve anything.
Regrets can be painful to live with, but no one gets through life without making mistakes. Instead of focusing just on your guilt and beating yourself up for things you can’t change, learn from those situations and make sure that you’ve done the work of understanding your past so that you can work toward a better future.