“Our past is a story existing only in our minds. Look, analyze, understand, and forgive. Then, as quickly as possible, chuck it.” Marianne Williamson
Regret. We’ve all felt it at some point. Some of you are feeling it right now and you are suffering because of it.
Something did or did not happen the way you wanted. You did or didn’t do something the way you wished you would have. And you want more than anything to be able to rewind time and get a do-over. You’ve replayed scenarios over and over in your head thinking of all the things you could have done or said. You’re trapped in a shoulda/coulda/woulda perspective and it’s a miserable place to be, isn’t it?
As much as you are aware that regret is a miserable place to hang out in, you cannot seem to be free of it.
And it is essential to your well-being that you commit to letting go of regret. Why? Well, because it feels awful and feeling awful does not support the co-creation of an awesome life. Regret keeps you in the past and when you are consistently looking behind you, you do not notice what is right in front of you. And, when you are hanging out in regret, you may be feeling depressed and beating yourself up – and that’s not useful in any way!
So how do you get out of regret? First, understand that when you are experiencing regret, you are evaluating a situation that happened in the past with the awareness you have in the present.
Let me break it down: Something happens. You react, you make a choice, you take an action. Then time passes. And you think about what happened. You analyze it, obsess over it, and talk ad nauseam about it with your friends. You continue to gather more information and knowledge. Then you take all this awareness and information that you have NOW, and beat yourself up because you did not know it THEN. It is totally unfair and unreasonable to take what you know now and use it to beat yourself up for what you didn’t know then.
Please take this in: You really truly did the best you could at the time! Trust me. And until you really take in this truth, you will stay stuck in regret.
The wonderful thing about regret is that it gets your attention and offers you a tremendous opportunity for learning and transformation. But in order to do that, you have to let go of the shoulda/coulda/woulda’s!
Now that you have the awareness that it is unreasonable to use what you know in the present to judge your actions in the past, you are ready to move on to a three-step process that will support you in fully moving out of regret.
Step One: Look for the learnings. Take some time to do some journaling about what you learned from whatever it is that you are regretting. What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about someone else? What patterns do you see? What are you noticing about your reactions and responses? ALL situations in life are rich with learning. When you look at your past, view it from a learning-oriented perspective rather than a shoulda/coulda/woulda perspective.
Rewinding time is not possible but “do-over’s” actually are. Of course we cannot get a do-over of the exact same situation, but the Universe will deliver to you similar situations where you will get to practice what you learned. The first time it happened you didn’t know any better. The second time you’ll know a little more so you can do a little better.
Step Two: Take action. Regret keeps us stuck in the past, so ask yourself what you need to do right now to support yourself in moving forward. Is there support you need? Is there a conversation you need to have? Are there some boundaries you need to set and hold yourself accountable to? Regret is a reactive response. Identifying and committing to action steps you can take NOW is proactive. Reactive responses keep you stuck; proactive responses move you forward. You want to move forward don’t you?
Step Three: Forgive yourself!! This is the most important (and often most challenging part). We all make so-called mistakes. Remember, you are a human being so stop placing an expectation on yourself that you are supposed to get it “right” all of the time! Remember the truth: YOU DID THE BEST YOU COULD. YOU DID THE BEST YOU COULD. YOU DID THE BEST YOU COULD WITH WHAT YOU KNEW AT THE TIME. Really. I encourage yourself to say to yourself, “I forgive myself for buying into the misunderstanding that I did something wrong. The truth is that I was doing the best I could.” Repeat that several times. Breath. Take it in.
You do not have to suffer from regret. You can stop beating yourself up; it is not serving you. Learn, take action, forgive and stop looking behind you. TURN AROUND. See what is right in front of you…and, better yet, what lies ahead.
P.S. I have a new podcast where I coach people LIVE on the air. Head over to Over it and On With It and listen in for inspiration and action steps.
Christine Hassler has broken down the complex and overwhelming experience of recovering from disappointment into a step-by-step treatment plan in her new book Expectation Hangover. This book reveals the formula for how to process disappointment on the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual levels to immediately ease suffering. Instead of wallowing in regret, self-recrimination, or anger, we can see these experiences as catalysts for profound transformation and doorways that open to possibility. You can find more info on her website, and follow her on Twitter and FB.
image courtsey of: greekfood-tamystika