Dealing With Regret? How to Let Go
In life, regrets are inevitable – kind of like paying taxes and dying. No matter how much you plan out your decisions, you will still have regrets. What could have been and what you can’t know for sure will always be in the back of your mind, especially if you are disappointed with the outcome of your final choices. But for those of you who let regrets paralyze your present, it’s time to accept what is instead of what could have been, and start constructively dealing with regret.
While some people strive to live by the motto, “No regrets,” most find it unrealistic. Regrets stem from our human nature to question the course our lives haven taken as a result of the decisions we’ve made.
While your choices may have really been the best ones, sometimes it just seems like the grass is greener on the other side – and sometimes it may very well be.
Between career regrets, parenting regrets, relationship regrets, and health regrets, many of us get incredibly caught up in what we wish was or wasn’t. Why? Because you either never anticipated you’d make those mistakes and you’d reach the current outcome, or because you had no choice in the matter, but still embrace unnecessary responsibility.
Sometimes, it may be the non-action you took that has you full of regret, and you only now realize its impact once it’s too late. But when you’re weighted down with regret, it’s difficult to enjoy and appreciate the good things in your present life – your health, your family, your friends, your job, etc.
And when you’re full of regret, you haven’t adequately worked through the emotions associated with your past experiences. Having regrets, especially ones you never voice, is also a way of refusing to let go of something, and that’s not healthy for your mental well-being.
Your regrets ultimately play a role in your destiny. First, regrets either serve solely as reminders of your mistakes, or as reminders to take the lesson from your mistakes and not make the same mistake twice.
So what about destiny? Is whatever happened supposed to have happened because the course you’re on is what you were ultimately destined to take? Does everything really happen for a reason, as they say?
Maybe, and maybe not – you have to decide that.
But what you do know for certain is that what’s happened in the past has happened, and unfortunately, sometimes there are no do-overs.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to stop ruminating and release your disappointment so you can start letting go of the past. Regrets don’t have to be a burden on your present and your future. Start dealing with regret effectively with these four tips:
1. Acknowledge your faults
Your regrets may stem from something you did or something that was out of your hands. When you didn’t make the best decision, it’s important to start accepting responsibility for it. How can you healthfully move on if you won’t acknowledge the reality of the role you played?
Ask yourself what your prime motivation was, and what your priorities should be next time. Accepting responsibility can be quite empowering, and it will allow you to more realistically evaluate a future decision.
2. Let go of a small regret first
Do you have a major regret that seems to eat at you the most? Before you can make peace with it, work on making peace with a smaller regret first. Maybe it was the party where your best friend met tons of potential suitors at, but you blew it off last minute. You can’t help but think, what if my soulmate was somewhere in that crowd?
Not the most life-altering mistake, is it? Put this regret into perspective and do away with it. Once you see how good it feels to rid yourself of a minor burden, you’ll be more motivated to purge the other baggage you carry with you.
3. Find meaning
There is a lesson with every regret, and it’s just waiting for you to find. Think of regret as a learning opportunity – it is the only way you’ll ever find some value in it – and there’s always something to be taken away from your experiences.
To find the lesson, you must ask yourself exactly why you’re letting go of the regret.
For example, “I am letting go of this regret because it’s taking valuable time and energy away from my recovery/health/family/friends/job etc.” When you start to acknowledge the impact of the grip it has over you, you’ll probably find yourself embarrassed or ashamed of how it’s also hurting those around you. You’ll get real clarity on why it’s time to start letting go of the past.
Next, if possible, take the steps necessary to mend your mistakes. For example, if you regret not telling someone how you felt about him or her before they passed away, make an effort to let those in your life now know how much you love and appreciate them. You may not be able to take something back, but you can use the lessons you’ve learned to help others.
4. Modify your expectations
Whether it’s your personal expectation or other’s expectations of you, ask yourself if you’re being realistic about them. If your expectations aren’t realistic, you may discover the reasons for the outcome of your regret in the first place.
It’s a good thing to set your expectations high, just so long as they don’t become so impractical that regrets become inevitable. Modify your expectations next time and minimize the opportunity to have regrets in the future.
While it’s likely you won’t escape regrets in your life, you can learn how to make amends with yourself in order to minimize the negative influence you let regrets have in your life. Not only will you be a happier person, but so will your loved ones and co-workers who suffered as a result will, too.