I should have… If only I had done that instead… I wish I would have…

These are the words of regret. 

What Is Regret?

Regret is defined as: A feeling of sadness, loss, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done, especially a lost or missed opportunity.

Regret is a feeling we have about the past, about things that have already happened, things we can no longer do anything about. It is when our present self looks back and questions our past self and the decisions she made, the things she did or didn’t do. We use our current knowledge about the way things turned out against ourselves. Really unfair if you think about it! 

What Are You Regretting?

I used to have lots of regrets. I used to regret my segway away from my career into martial arts in my early life because I felt it ultimately set me back in my career. I used to regret that I took a 5 year break when completing my Master’s Degree because if I had only just plugged away at it, I would have been done in half that time. I used to regret that I didn’t insist my husband get annual scans after his first bout with cancer, even though he chose not to. 

Why Do We Feel This Way?

Why is it that humans regret past decisions and past actions or inactions? We think if only we had made different choices, our lives would be better now. It’s enticing to think that there is a perfect life course out there for you if you only make the right choices. In reality, there is no way to know how a different choice would have changed your life. 

It’s also a way of finding a reason for why we aren’t where we want to be now. If we had only bought that property when it was cheap, we would have a lot more money now. If we had only kept up our work out routine, we wouldn’t be 20 pounds overweight now. Regret gives us a scapegoat because it allows us to blame our past self for the situation our present self is in. When we blame, even if it’s blaming ourselves, it gives us a little sense of control in the world.

Regret Is Not A Useful Emotion

Emotions are always the fuel for our actions. When we feel regret, we are focused on a past that we cannot change. Despite what we’d like to believe, there is no “perfect” course in life. Even if you make all the “best” choices, there are no guarantees of happiness, money, or health. Life is unpredictable. If the COVID 19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we never know how things will turn out. 

Redefine Our Past “Mistakes”

Regret keeps you focused on a past that you cannot change. It keeps you looking backward instead of looking forward to a better future.The greatest growth comes from “failure,” but only if you choose to look at it that way. If you choose to regret, you will be stuck in judgement. 

Choose instead to redefine your “mistakes” and “failures” as exactly what you needed to get you here, to the person you are today. Your life was exactly how it was supposed to be. How do you know? Because it was. If you don’t like certain aspects of the person you are today, regretting your past will not change anything. Instead, it will keep you stuck reliving past decisions.

Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.

Byron Katie

Escaping The Regret Trap

I no longer have many regrets. My coach helped me work through them. I cannot change who I was, I can only focus on who I want to be. I choose to believe that my past decisions and actions taught me exactly what I needed to learn. Believe this keeps me focused on the present and becoming the person I want to be.  

Your Future Self

If regret is our present self, judging the decisions of our past self, then what are you doing now that your future self will want to judge? 

Is there something you are procrastinating on? Is there a risk you are too afraid to take? Are you putting your need for pleasure in the moment above your long term health goals? Are you worrying over the future and missing the present? 

Ask yourself if you are being the person your future self will look back on and be proud of or regret?

I’d love to hear your comments!

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2 thoughts on “Regret

  1. I like how you wrote this and the examples you gave. Using regret as a scapegoat for not getting on in life and living in the present is a good reminder for everyone. (me) Good job!!! G


  2. What a perfect topic to help us think forward not backward.

    I usually regret what I do not say or do. Not do. …And manage to live with the consequences in real time.

    However NOW need to move forward. Have been too stuck in the past. You gave a clear way to do so. Thank you.

    Loved the Byron Katie quote.

    Thanks for sharing your personal crossroads decisions & lessons learned too .

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