Regret is something many of us experience at some point in life. Wishing we’d done things differently like remaining calm instead of getting angry, saving money that we spent, being quiet instead of speaking, taking risks, and the list goes on.
If regret is handled correctly, it can become a motivator for change. If it is mishandled, then regretting our past action or inaction can distort our idea of ourselves, so we become trapped in feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, fear, and indecision.
Remorse can be a stepping stone to freeing ourselves from past mistakes, missteps, and mishaps so we live from our healthier, happier self. Many people simply decide that they won’t live their lives regretting past actions, but choose instead to learn from their mistakes, and move their lives in a new direction.
So regret, contrition, or sorrow are workable and within our power to effect change in our behavior, thinking, and speech.
Here’s how to empower yourself:
Own the Regret. Take time to reflect, but not ruminate on the situation. With kindness for yourself and acceptance of our human failing, acknowledge your fault and then forgive yourself. Remind yourself that we are all just doing our best. No one is perfect and then let it go. Acceptance helps us grow.
Focus on Your Wishes. Instead of thinking “if only” or “what if I had…”, instead explore your feelings and wishes through journalling about the life and self you envision for yourself. Becoming clear about your life goals, your values, and ethics will help you live more in alignment with these heartfelt goals.
Make Amends. If you are able to, then apologize to the person you feel you’ve harmed. If she/he isn’t around anymore, then you can write a letter expressing your sadness and sorrow. To symbolically release the regret you could burn the letter. Think about ways you could atone for your regret by helping other people. For example, if you are regretting not helping your parents more then consider volunteering at an old age home.
Regret keeps us trapped in the past. Living happens in the present. By overcoming regret, we empower ourselves to reclaim our lives to live in the present moment and bring benefit to ourselves and those around us.
May you free yourself of the past and enjoy every moment this day presents you.