- *this article was first published as http://thinksimplenow.com/wisdom/how-to-deal-with-regret/
The last time I felt a true sense of regret I was careening off the side of the road into a 30-foot ditch. For a split second I thought I might die.
That day there was a downpour, the road was collecting water, and, while I was going the speed limit, it was too fast for the conditions. I wanted to get to the next business destination.
Suddenly I could feel the car hydroplaning, and I struggled to keep the car straight. I’m guessing I kept the car on the road for 50 feet or so, before it caught enough ground to veer to the right, over the edge of the embankment.
I was eight weeks pregnant, and my daughter was 20 months old. It was a frightening experience, yet my feeling of fear paled in comparison to this powerful sense of regret.
Clear in my mind was the mistake I made (going too fast), and for one speeding moment it was possible I could take two lives and leave my daughter without a mom, and my husband without a wife.
Yet as quickly as I felt regret, it was replaced with relief. My car bottomed out in a wide ditch, nose down, but not excessively. I sat in the car, shaking, and made a few phone calls, then calmly got out and climbed to the edge of the road. I had lots of time to think, both at the edge of the road and for months afterwards.
It was in those months I realized regret is a wasted emotion. It is a draining, low-vibrating feeling based on action, which can’t be changed. As with any life altering moment, I’ve learned from it, and haven’t felt regret since that day. I hope you consider the effect regret may have in your life, and can take steps to eliminate it for good.
Regret. It almost always occurs when something wrong happens which you cannot fix. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as grief caused by the want or loss of something formerly possessed.
I believe regret goes even deeper than that. It is grief from the loss of something because you made a mistake. If you lose something, yet did everything right, you might feel anger, sadness, or frustration, but you won’t feel regret.
It is the irreversible mistake, which holds such power. Mistakes can include wrong words (or not communicating), careless behavior, or unthinking actions. Have you ever lost a relationship with a lover or friend? If you feel regret around it, you probably remember the mistakes you’ve made.
But that memory, and your feelings around it, can affect your happiness right now. Here are four lessons I’ve learned on how to deal with regret and the necessarily steps to overcome the experience of regret.
4 Lessons: How to Deal with Regret
1. Learn to Forgive
Regret happens when you don’t forgive yourself. When your mistake feels final, like going too fast on a highway, it is too easy to feel regret. However, forgiveness is a powerful catalyst, and is one of the most loving actions you can take for yourself. While regret holds you back in the past, forgiveness helps you to move forward.
Tell yourself, “That was part of who I was then. I didn’t know any better or I would have made a different choice. That mistake helped me to grow into who I am today. I forgive myself and resolve to move forward.” Believe what you tell yourself.
2. Let Go of Negative Feelings
Send negative feelings about your actions into the past, where the action occurred. They don’t do you any good now.
Visualize moving those pent-up feelings from your body back to the moment they occurred, with the more innocent version of yourself. (Here, you can forgive both yourself and those feelings.)
3. Find the Lessons
Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” When you make a mistake, there is ALWAYS something to learn.
Learning equals growth. It is more difficult to feel loss when your focus is on gain, and on bettering yourself.
My main lesson from my accident wasn’t simply to slow down; it was to listen to my intuition. It told me to slow down before I slid, but in my rush, I didn’t listen. I learned my lesson.
4. Letting Go of Old & Creating New
That person or thing you lost – what did it symbolize for you? What feeling did you enjoy (or wish to enjoy)?
Did your ex-spouse provide comfort and personal connection? Did a foreclosed house symbolize accomplishment and success for you?
Move feelings of comfort or success away from something in the past, and connect them to something new. Focus on new accomplishments and connections so you can move forward, away from memories, which no longer serve you.
Parting Words on Regret
The common thread in each of these lessons is to let go of the past, and create a better future. When you do this, there is no longer room for regret, for it serves no active purpose.
Concentrate on now. Put your passion into a new relationship, a new skill or a new adventure. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes, and move forward with a clear conscience.
What part of yourself will you forgive in order to move on?
What are your hopes and dreams? What part of them exists right now (the seed to them coming true)?