When you experience negative or “down” feelings – sorry, sad, or disappointment – over something you did, you’re probably experiencing regret. Regret can weigh you and your emotions down and become such a focus in your life that you’re unable to identify and enjoy the many positive accomplishments you’ve achieved.
Although it’s best not to experience regret, there may be times when it’s unavoidable. One key is not to dwell in (or get stuck in) the feeling of regret. Consider using the following steps to accept and deal with your regret and move on to live a freer and lighter life:
1. Acknowledge you feel sorry about what you did. Maybe you chose doing extra work on a personal or work project over spending time with your child. Recognize and consider how you are feeling. Say, “I’m sorry for that” to the person you offended or if the person isn’t available (or won’t listen), at least acknowledge to yourself that you’re sorry about the way things went.
2. How can you make the immediate situation better? In the above example, you can clearly block out quality time to spend with your child. However, other situations that bring on regret may not be so easily corrected, so do what you can, as soon as you can, to alleviate the issue.
3. What did you learn from the situation? You can gain back your emotional strength by completing this step. Allow yourself to think about the after effects of your faulty decision and then consider what you can do differently in the future, should a similar situation arise. Once you’ve considered alternatives, create a “groove” in your brain by stating out loud that you’ll follow this new path the next time around. Noticing your new learning will help you feel less regret, and acting on your new principle will help you to move forward by NOT repeating the faulty activity.
4. Apply new learning to your life now. The best way to combat regret is to live a life that you can be proud of, and more at peace with. When you’re thoughtful about decisions, avoid acting impulsively, and say nothing (at least initially) when you feel upset, you’ll begin to build a life that’s more tranquil and satisfying, and leave regret behind.
5. Reflect on Lucille Ball’s quote regarding regret. Ms. Ball once said, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than the things I haven’t done.” What point do you think she’s making?
* One interpretation is that it’s best to have regrets over making an effort at something and failing rather than doing nothing at all and remaining stuck. Maybe your reflections will help to power you forward to figure out a course of action that will resolve your regret. You might even find something about your behavior that you can feel okay about.
6. Give yourself a break. It’s true, you messed up – all of us human beings will mess up from time to time. It’s important to realize, though, that you’ve gained more understanding about the situation and you’ve done what you can to resolve it. Now it’s time to forgive yourself.
7. Let go of the negative. There will come a time to sum it up, acknowledge what you did, and move on. Let go of the negativity to make room for more positivity in your life. You can experience a huge sigh of relief and embrace your life with renewal and hope. Things can be better now.
Dealing with regret could be one of the greatest life challenges you’ll have to traverse. However, if you acknowledge you’re sorry and ask what you can do to soothe the situation, and then take positive action, you’re well on your way to successfully managing your regret. Also, identify and apply lessons learned from the situation.
Find your own meaning to Lucille Ball’s quote about regret. Give yourself a break. Finally, learn to release the negativity from the regret and move forward. Find the tranquil life you want by successfully dealing with your regret.