Regrets, I have a few, but wouldn’t change things for the world

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

I am sure that we can all think of an occasion we regret our action, or inaction. Did I achieve my career goals?  Did I do that charity sky dive? What might have happened if….?

A dictionary definition of regret is the “sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair”; that feeling we may have had something more positive now if we had made different decisions in the past; feeling sorry for misfortunes, or disappointment over something we’ve failed to do. Regret can be considered a more negative feeling but the actions we choose following an emotion makes a difference to our long term wellbeing.

Dr Amy Silver suggested that regret can be something that holds us back but moving on is not being captive to our past, allowing the experiences of our past guide our future actions. Silver offers some ideas things we can do to help us move forward:

Recognise your feelings and let them out – exploring what’s going on in your head and heart, writing down what you are thinking and changing the language associated with that feeling e.g. angry, envious and so on.

Practice gratitude – understanding where we did and did not have control to learn from the experience. Instead of making a statement that shows regret like “I could have travelled the world” replacing it with “I’m grateful that I live in a world where there are many experiences still to have where I am”.

Consider what you really want or value – use the time when you feel hurt or sorrow about something in the past to remind yourself what really matters.  If you feel you missed out on a promotion for example, it may be that you’ve recognised your need for growth, not necessarily that promotion.

Make regret productive – beating yourself up over something you had no control over is a waste of effort. Taking a closer look at your feelings and thinking about what you can do in the future would be a better use of time and effort.

Whether we reason away regret or not we should be accountable only for those things that are in our control.  Regrets are opportunities to learn rather than get hung up on the “could haves” and “should haves”. That doesn’t mean that we should ignore our regrets, we are all fallible, but we should acknowledge that we make mistakes and ensure that we learn from them.


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