“A great source of calamity lies in regret and anticipation; therefore a person is wise who thinks of the present alone, regardless of the past or future.” – Oliver Goldsmith
Most days I felt immense gratitude for all I had in my life. But then there were the times, within those grateful moments, I felt a twinge. The twinge of regret that pulled me out of my happy place and gnawed at my psyche until I just couldn’t ignore it anymore.
Regret is a powerful emotion and as much as we try to squash or suppress it, that pang of disappointment continues to re-appear.
So how do we move past regret that is deeply personal and acutely painful?
Here is what I have learned about letting go of past regret.
1. Give up the hope that you could have done it differently
Maybe you realized shortly after or years later that you made a tremendous mistake and wish you could go back and choose differently. While you could have made a different decision than the one you chose, be kind to yourself and accept that you chose this path based on factors you felt made sense at the time. In that moment, you believed you were making the best decision for you.
Was it the right one? Maybe not, but there is a lesson in there and whether you choose to see it will determine the quality of your present and future.
2. Embrace the lesson
” The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – John Powell
Understand that as long as you learned from your perceived mistake and acknowledged any pain you may have caused to yourself or others involved – you came out the other side with knowledge and power to move forward with a greater sense of commitment to yourself and those around you.
3. Refrain from Blame
“A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” – John Burroughs
Your regret may involve the actions of a another person. Maybe you felt there was no other choice because of pressure or a promise made by someone you trusted. These types of regrets are very hurtful, as you may feel deceived and victimized.
We all know how easy it is to blame someone else. It removes the responsibility off of ourselves and firmly places it on another, who we may feel justifiably deserves the blame – and they probably do carry some responsibility – but not all.
Realize that even if you feel you were at the mercy of another, you are still 100% in control of how you react and the choices you make. Blaming anyone, including yourself will keep you from learning the lesson and moving forward.
I believe that we attract certain people into our lives – good and bad – to learn from. Remember to embrace the lesson.
4. Accept and forgive
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” – Alexander Pope
Accept that you may have made a wrong choice and then forgive yourself. Forgiveness is the only way to move past the regret you feel. If someone else was involved, forgive them as well. This is not an easy task, but it is crucial to begin mending your heart and your life.
There are numerous books that teach forgiveness. Work on healing yourself and you will begin to move forward and emerge on the other side of the pain.
5. Evaluate your relationships
“Often it isn’t the initiating trauma that creates seemingly insurmountable pain, but the lack of support after.” – S. Kelley Harrell
To err is human. We are all humans on intertwining roads to self discovery, searching for a greater purpose. On our roads, we will inevitably make mistakes – every one of us. Sometimes we hang on to our guilt and regret because others keep reminding us of our failings and may themselves have issue with our choices.
How can you move beyond regret when someone consistently digs up the past?
It’s tough to move on when you are not receiving support and encouragement from a loved one or friend. Your self esteem will suffer and you will continue to stay in the negativity, which is unhealthy and self defeating.
Express your feelings with clarity and explain that in order for you to move forward, you will need and would appreciate their support. If they do not respect your position, then you may have to make the best decision for you and end the relationship.
6. Live in the present
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha
When we live in the present, all troubles disappear. This is because our awareness of our immediate reality increases and our focus is exclusively on what we are doing at that moment.
The next time you are performing a mundane task, be in the moment.
For example, when washing your clothes, use your senses and direct all your attention at the task at hand. FEEL the fabric in your hands. Is it soft, course, silky? SEE the beauty of the colours and prints. HEAR the water begin to trickle into the machine and SMELL the freshly washed clothes as you pull them out of the dryer. This is living in the present.
The more we practice mindfulness, the richer our present world will become and appreciation will follow for all that exists right now.
7. Practice Gratitude
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle
Like so many people, I was focusing on my mistakes and the regret I felt. I beat myself up for being too naive, too stupid and it was exhausting.
Then I watched a show on Oprah that opened my eyes to a new way of living. The show was about gratitude.
I had an epiphany! How was it possible that I hadn’t done this before? From that day on, I became a loyal follower to the practice of gratitude. I don’t allow myself to imagine where I would be now if I hadn’t embarked on that journey.
Although being grateful propelled me into a new positive way of living, it was not a quick fix for my burden of regret. In order to move past the disappointment that pulled me out of my gratefulness, I also needed to take the steps above to get out of the cycle of regret.
By changing your focus to the positives in your life, you leave no room for the negative chatter. It truly is an amazing, yet simple practice that will get you living again.
List all of the things you are grateful for in your life, right down to the simplest of pleasures. You will be amazed how long your list becomes. Practice everyday and may you begin to see that your life IS abundant and you are blessed.
We remain in a state of regret when we can’t see a way to move forward. I hope these 7 steps will help you move past regret and into the glorious life you were meant to live.
“It doesn’t matter what you did or where you were…it matters where you are and what you’re doing. Get out there! Sing the song in your heart and NEVER let anyone shut you up!!” – Steve Maraboli
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