How to Overcome Regret
Regrets. We’ve all had a few. In researching how to get over regret, we found three excellent examples of people who did so in such thoughtful, meaningful ways. And there are some general tactics, should you find yourself mired in remorse:
• Own up to it.
Accept your responsibility in the negative experience.
• Move on.
Let go of what you cannot and could not control.
If you hurt another person—whether intentionally or inadvertently—apologize, mend bridges, or otherwise express how you feel. Then let it go.
• Free yourself.
Decide that you deserve to be free from the negative feelings surrounding the episode.
• Learn from it.
Seek to identify the lessons inherent in the experience.
• Say thanks.
Express gratitude for the experience, as it can and will bring insight, if you allow it.
40; co-founder of Aspire-Canada, an online platform for young professionals; Ottawa, Ontario
When I was 31, my husband passed away suddenly. I was overwhelmed with grief and regret for not forcing him to go to the doctor sooner, not having spent enough time with him, and for not saying “I love you” much more than I did. Professionally I found it hard to focus at work because of the sudden tragedy, and because I was now a single mom with two young kids and responsibilities to shoulder on my own. All of my new relationships seemed second-rate compared to my old life. I was treating my present like an Option B.
I took a yearlong sabbatical and lived in Jamaica. I hiked, cooked healthy meals, meditated, prayed and wrote. Finally I accepted there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome. I realized I would have to accept it, as it would enslave me and keep me captive forever if I didn’t move on. The results have been incredible. I am healthier physically, spiritually and emotionally. My businesses are now mission-driven and thriving. This journey has allowed me to embrace my new life and to see my experience as a hidden gift that’s made me a better person.
36; principal of a creative communications firm; Dallas
For years I was hung up on the fact I dropped out of my master’s program at Howard University with only two classes left. In 2008 the job market was poor, and I could secure only internships in my field. I constantly obsessed over the idea that being a graduate school dropout was the reason my career stalled. I complained a lot to my family and friends. Although I tried to journal my feelings, there were days I totally gave up on my chosen career field.
Starting in 2009, I went back to school. I began calling the chair of my graduate program with frequency to tell her I would graduate, and I called on two important people to keep me accountable. I began visualizing myself graduating, living, loving and working in Washington, D.C. I graduated in Spring 2011. I was determined to succeed. I landed a job at a public relations firm, then later an advocacy organization. My life has improved because I see how I loved myself back from the brink and others deeply believed in my ability to live the life I deserved. I had to see the hiatus in my graduate program as an opportunity to grow up more, give more and come back into myself stronger.
37; author and personal-development coach; Cherry Hill, New Jersey
I was so focused on trying to understand why I lost myself for seven years in a relationship that I knew in my heart wouldn’t work. The realization that I had buried my passions, aspirations and goals was hard to swallow. I spent day after day thinking of ways I could have been more attentive to what I desired for my life and things I would have done differently to avoid wasting so much precious time.
Depressed, I would deliberately avoid important phone calls or sabotage big interviews because I felt I didn’t deserve to be successful. Due to my own misery, I was negative, defensive and argumentative, and people who loved to be in my company eventually began to separate themselves altogether. I was nearly 100 pounds overweight and had a host of digestive conditions because of the stress. I hit rock bottom.
One day I looked in the mirror and had a conversation with my inner self. I promised that I would never again allow myself to bury my dreams because of a person or circumstance. I gave my life to prayer, meditation and self-discovery. The more I began to focus on bringing more positive people, thoughts and actions into my life, the more everything began to change around me. My emotional eating habits were erased when I cared enough about myself to take notice of my physical health. My mental and physical energy were at an all-time high. I felt absolutely wonderful. There was no room for regret because my new mindset opened me up to a future of unlimited possibilities. Since then I have used that experience to help others transform their lives and journey down a path toward success.
Related: How Do You Move on From Something?
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.