We all have those buried feelings of not pursuing a passion, not conveying our true feelings to someone we loved, not speaking up when we wanted to, not spending enough time with a loved one, holding grudges for too long, not being kind to others…and many more.
We are lucky when we have the opportunity to “make up” for a regret, however sometimes it’s too late. Not having done what could have been, or rather should have been is a feeling that can haunt us forever. You know why? Because it was us who made that CHOICE.
Regret is an anchor that pulls you down and inhibits your growth and development. Once a word is spoken or action taken, right or wrong, cannot be retracted unless you have a time machine. So how does an individual find solace in such ordeals? How can he/she stop self loathing? We wish to go back in time and do the things right. However, certainly, we ain’t got no time machine (Yet!!).
The answer is very simple, we can undertake various steps to help deal with regrets,
1. Understand regret, Understand Yourself-
Regret is an intense negative emotion which is displayed by sadness, loss, remorse, anger, shame, and anxiety. It has a vicious cycle which includes obsessive thinking about the incidents which eventually makes us anxious to take a step in future or not take any action at all.
What is causing regret?
What does it tell about you?
Why does it make you feel sad/ashamed/remorseful?
There must be various situations in our day-to-day life when we fail to achieve our own personal standards, it is then when we regret our deeds. An outcome of a deed not foreseen or consequence of an action underestimated. Instead of considering all are acts as a source of regret, it is extremely important to identify that one trigger. It can be from any area- such as work, family, education or friends. Such as failing to spend time with a friend suffering through chronic illness.
I wish I could have been there for my friend that day instead of going out with my partner.
What does it tell you about your value of friendship in your life?
2. Accept The Feedback Regret Is Trying To Convey
As discussed in above point when we regret something and feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, it reflects what our values really are. Great way for self-discovery. And thus an opportunity to allign our actions and values
Beating yourself up due to a past event, would not be fruitful. Acceptance provides relief. Regrets can be a great teacher, it provides us with an opportunity to identify where we went wrong and working on it.
Love yourself enough to work on yourself. We all are work in progress.
3. Turn Unproductive regret to Productive regret
Productive regret is nothing but a positive criticism/healthy feedback wherein you analyse your mistakes and use it for your betterment. It helps you to alter your action/behavior or work on that ONE gap. Take this as an opportunity to work and better yourself.
I regret not approaching my manager on time.
What made you NOT approach on time? Was it a perceived threat? Lack of assertiveness? Fear of rejection?
4. Defocusing on Regret
Writing down your regrets is one of the best ways to clear your mind and acquire a positive attitude towards life. It gives you a sense of serenity. A 2008 Australian study also found that writing once a week for three weeks about an upsetting experience reduced intrusive thoughts.
Any decision that we make at any given point in time, do we know what the outcome would really be? Is the outcome dependent only on our decision? We make choices as per the availability of information and knowledge internal/external resources available back then.
Regretting to have taken an X Job at a given point in time because it didnt work well.
The factors governing to the choice made then, did you deviate from them while making the choice? If you didn’t, then it truly represents the need of the time then.
Identify the factors that contributed to the decision gone bad, and inevitable truth that either you did not have access to all the information (which by the way is dynamic and never static) about the job/market or yourself.
5. Forgive Yourself And Set Actionable Goals
Once we achieve acceptance we then need to set new goals. The anxiety that we have of something gone wrong from our hand can be managed by putting worry into action.
For example- When you identify the gaps you may have in values/beliefs and your actions, it’s either the time to modify your belief or allign your action.
Get a professional help to help you achieve this clarity on what needs to change and how the regret can help you grow, Deal with regrets.
6. Understand How Other People Have Failed Themselves and Others Too
Listening to the stories of others can help us know how none of us can make a full proof non-failing decision. It can give a great sense of validation for being able to do mistakes.