Table of Contents
4 Powerful Ways to Handle Regret Introduction
4 Powerful Ways to Handle Regret. What is regret? It is defined as feeling sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity.
Regret is a very common negative emotion that we’ve all felt at some point in our lives, and probably on many occasions. This is usually driven by the “what if” question. What if I had done this (or didn’t do something) instead, would things be different?
One of the most typical feelings that come with regret is blame. We blame ourselves for making the “wrong” choice or by not doing something that you now think you should have. This is often the focus, is to blame ourselves for screwing something up and causing the regret.
The biggest problem with regret is that it can often be a way to hold a grudge against ourselves and beat ourselves up over choices we’ve made in the past. That isn’t healthy, and my goal is to help you start working to process that regret and take actionable steps to move past it.
While feelings of regret are not avoidable, as no one is perfect, there are ways to deal with these feelings and overcome them. Are you ready to take control of your life and handle your feelings of regret? Let’s go! Here are my 4 powerful ways to handle regret.
4 Powerful Ways to Handle Regret
Try to understand where your regret is coming from
Where do your feelings of regret come from? Is it from something you did? Something you didn’t do? A specific way you treated someone else? Where is your source of regret coming from?
Don’t avoid your regret. Feel it, but don’t let it consume you. When we avoid, demy, or minimize negative emotional experiences like regret, they tend to come back with a vengeance. And that isn’t a pleasant experience. Because that can easily become overwhelming. Allow yourself to experience your feelings, and then start to handle them instead of avoiding them. Avoidance just makes things worse and prolongs the negative feelings.
Write these things down. If you’re feeling regret, you likely know exactly why you feel this way and everything you perceive that you did wrong in that specific situation because you are your own worst critic. Let’s explore these feelings.
Also think about how your body reacts when you are feeling regret. Do you feel a tightness in your throat, nausea, a rapid heart rate, for example? Make a list of the physical reactions you experience when you start feeling regret. If you’ve been avoiding the feelings of regret, this is even more important, because those reactions will be more extreme.
After you do this, walk away from your journal for a little bit. Maybe a day or two. Then come back and read it. Read it without judgment or criticism. You’ve already spent too much time judging yourself as it is. Try to look at it like a learning experience from an objective mind. See where you can learn from your feelings. If you were to go through the exact same situation that caused the regret tomorrow, what would you do differently?
Think about how you would change your behavior or decisions and write those down as well. Focus on a self-compassionate stance here, because that will not only make you feel better, it will help encourage self-improvement. Criticism will not help you to change your behavior, it actually makes you less likely to change. Think about teaching a child. Does yelling at them actually teach them, or does compassion and explanation do it? You aren’t any different as an adult!
When you turn those feelings into a learning experience and strive to make other choices if it happens again, you are growing! You can’t change the past. It is just that simple, and dwelling on something you can’t change is not productive or healthy. But you can certainly change the future by not repeating the behaviors you regret, and that is growth. Which is a very powerful thing. The only way you can learn from regret is to fully experience it first, explore it, and then grow from it.
Realize that things may not have worked out anyway
Oftentimes we play the “what if” game in our heads when it comes to regret. It is easy to think that everything would be better, and that we missed the golden opportunity of a lifetime by not doing something.
But what if the grass wasn’t as green on the other side as we think it may have been? Maybe things would be far worse than where you are right now. Don’t overestimate the benefit of not-chosen paths. Sometimes we idolize what could have been or imagine that everything would have worked out for the best if we had simply made a different choice. But you can’t predict the future. I don’t have a crystal ball that shows me the future. Do you? Because unless you do, you are simply romanticizing the idea of something and not reality.
This is why living in the past and living with regret is completely pointless. What ifs are just wishful thinking, and that isn’t productive. You are better than that, and it is time to realize that and move forward from living in the past.
Think about the negatives that may have come from a choice you regret, and what could have gone wrong. Make a list of those things. Then realize that life may have worked out exactly how it should have. This puts things in perspective, and it also helps you be able to appreciate where you are right now and the things you have.
Think about the things you are grateful for right now. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are. Write these things down. Then realize that if you had followed through with the choice you’re busy regretting, you wouldn’t have the things you are grateful for.
Take action to let go of regret
Now that you understand your regret and what is causing it, it is time to take action and let go of it. Don’t continue to live in the past and let that regret cause you to suffer. It is time to actively start moving on to bigger and better things. You owe it to yourself to take the steps toward letting go of regret. Your health, happiness, and peace depend on that.
Make a commitment to yourself to let go of regret. Write it down, with the date, and commit to taking action to let go. You don’t need to show this to anyone else. This is for you, and you alone.
Write down a list of ways you can take action to let go of regret. This could be a support group, apologizing to someone, writing a letter you don’t send, and so much more. That is up to you to decide what options you have and how you want to go about letting go of your regret.
Put your regret into perspective. Regret will lose power over time. Will this regret change anything? Will it matter next month? A year from now? Five years? Is anyone going to even remember the situation besides you?
How much time are you spending per day, week, or month focusing on your feelings of regret? Is there a more productive way to spend your time? Is that time you spend on regret taking you away from your husband, kids, job, or anything else that is important in your life?
When you can put your feelings of regret in perspective and context, it can be much easier to let go of.
Forgive yourself for the things you regret
Forgiving yourself is the most important step! Because if you are dealing with regret, this is likely over something you feel you did wrong. But you need to stop holding it against yourself. What does holding it against yourself do to help the situation? The answer is, absolutely nothing. Holding a grudge against yourself is not a healthy or productive way to handle your feelings and emotions.
Remind yourself that everyone has regrets, everyone has made mistakes, done or said the wrong thing. We are all human. Humans are messy, they screw up, they are emotional, imperfect, the list goes on. Living life is just a messy thing.
The only healthy and productive thing to do is learn from what we did wrong and strive to be better everyday. If you’re learning from your mistakes instead of making them repeatedly, you are growing and it is time to forgive yourself because you can’t change the past. You can only learn from it and keep growing.
The fact that you feel regret shows that you care, and that is a good thing. Sometimes that is all we can do. Forgive yourself and start moving forward.
Ways to start forgiving yourself
- Name the self-critic. Pay attention to when you start criticizing yourself and how it sounds. Give that inner voice a name. Being mindful of your own thought patterns can help you recognize it and put a stop it before it spirals out of control in your head.
- Channel a caring person from your childhood. Think of someone you knew who was empathetic, caring, compassionate, understanding, and forgiving. Maybe it was your grandmother, or a teacher? Try to think about how they would treat you when you made a mistake. Then treat yourself with that same love and compassion.
- Let go of all or nothing thinking. Life isn’t black and white. There are a lot of gray areas! Regret doesn’t make you a bad person. One bad decision doesn’t make you a bad person, nor will you always be this way. That regret does not define who you are as a person. Oftentimes we think in very black and white terms. You didn’t go visit grandma enough before she died. Therefore you are a bad granddaughter. Being a bad granddaughter makes you a bad person. But that isn’t the case, and that is a thinking trap that is easy to fall into. Let go of that black and white all or nothing mentality.
- Put your actions in context. Did you make a decision based on anger, fear, or even ignorance? Many times we have to make decisions under imperfect circumstances, and that can be where we end up regretting those choices. A wise person once said that hindsight is 20/20. Don’t focus on the choice you made without understanding the context in which you made that choice.
Write all of these things down! Write down the name you’ve given to your inner self-critic. List off what happens when that voice makes an appearance and the emotions you feel. Next, write down who your caring person is from your childhood. Make a list of all their characteristics that you appreciate about them and what makes them such a great person. Write down what happens when you fall into the trap of all or nothing thinking. Next, think about the context of when you made a choice. What were the circumstances? Were you grieving, fearful, angry, stressed, panicking? Make a list of the extenuating circumstances going on around you that may have influenced your decisions.
When you write these things down, it makes it easier to understand what is happening from an impersonal or detached perspective. Think of it like your best friend explaining how they feel to you. You take a different approach to reacting or giving advice to them. When you can do that with yourself, and observe your thoughts without judgment, you can start to make progress.
4 Powerful Ways to Handle Regret Notes
Let’s reflect on these 4 powerful ways to handle regret. One of the best things about regret is that you can use it to clarify what you value. This is an amazing opportunity to learn more about yourself. If your regret is based on how you treat your employees, you value compassion and support. If your regret is missing out on time spent with your kids, you value being a hands-on and available parent. If you regret not going to medical school, you value helping people. The list goes on and on.
Think about and clarify your values when you think about your regret. You can learn a lot about yourself this way as you go through the 4 powerful ways to handle regret, and knowing and understanding your values will help you in the future with reaching your goals and potentially making different decisions because you have better information.
Regret hurts. It is a painful experience and feels awful because it implies that you could have done something different and been happier or had a better outcome. Be prepared for this to be difficult and painful. But also remember that just because it is difficult doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Instead focus on facing it head-on so that you can work toward resolving it and learning from it. That is why these 4 powerful ways to handle regret are so important.
By writing all of this down and going through the 4 powerful ways to handle regret, you are making a huge stride to be better than yesterday and continue growing. This allows you to fully experience the regret so you can move past it and not focus on it constantly. Moving on builds confidence and allows you to love yourself. This is a form of self-care, in my opinion.
You deserve to become the best version of yourself. Through these 4 powerful ways to handle regret, you are heading in the right direction to become the best version of yourself.
My goal for you with these 4 powerful ways to handle regret is that you write them in your journal, and it helps you to put an end to living in the past and gets you started on the path to a much brighter future! Because you absolutely deserve that. Regrets don’t need to stop you from achieving your goals and living the best life that you can. You are deserving of all the happiness in the world. Those regrets you’re experiencing do not mean you are unworthy of happiness.
4 Powerful Ways to Handle Regret Discussion
Are you feeling regret for something in your life? How long have you been experiencing this regret? Are you ready for a change and to move forward from that regret? Have these 4 powerful ways to handle regret helped you? Are you running into any speed bumps or difficulties in this journey? If you are taking this journey, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!