When you feel sorry, sad, or disappointed over something you did, you’re probably experiencing regret.
Regret can be defined as a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done. It’s a part of our everyday lives and pretty much inevitable, there’s virtually no way to avoid it.
Regret can weigh you down and become such a focus in your life that you’re unable to identify the many accomplishments you’ve achieved. Until you can handle the feelings of regret and not get bogged down in reflecting over and over about what went wrong, you’ll be stuck in the past and unable to move forward.
Although people may feel it’s best not to have to experience regret, there are definitely times in our lives when it’s unavoidable. The only way to never experience regret is to never try anything – never reach out, never attempt anything new…but then you’ll have the potential for regrets about what “might have been” and what you might have accomplished.
The best way to handle feelings of regret is to examine the situation that caused the regret, and then analyze what you’re feeling and what happened in order to get a complete picture without excessive emotion.
Consider taking the following clear and focused steps to deal with your regret about a challenging situation so that you can move on to live an unfettered life:
1. Acknowledge that you feel sorry about what you did while in the situation. Maybe you chose doing extra work on a project over spending time with your child. Recognize how you feel. Say, “I’m sorry for that” to the person you offended or if the person isn’t available, at least acknowledge to yourself that you’re sorry about the way things went.
2. How can you make the situation better after the fact? Look for a solution instead of beating yourself up endlessly. In the above example, you can clearly block out time in the near future to spend quality time with your child. However, other situations that bring on regret may not be so easily corrected, so do what you can to alleviate the issue and lessen the negative impact.
3. What did you learn from the situation? You can gain back much of your emotional strength by thoughtfully completing this step. Allow yourself to think about the after effects of your faulty decision and then consider carefully what you can do differently in the future, should a similar situation arise. Noticing your new learning will help you feel less regret because you’ll be prepared to work for a different outcome.
4. Apply your new learning and understanding to your life now. The best way to combat regret is to live a life that you can be 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. You’ll head off some of the reasons that you may have felt regret in the past before they take effect.
5. Reflect on Lucille Ball’s quote regarding regret. 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 better to have regrets over making an effort at something and failing rather than not doing anything at all and remaining static. Maybe your reflections will move you forward to a plan of action that will help to 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 – but messing up is a normal consequence of living your life. But you’ve gained a further understanding of the situation and done what you can to resolve it. Now it’s time to forgive yourself, lose the pain, but keep the lesson.
7. Let go. There will come a time to sum it up, acknowledge what you did, and move on. Stop letting the mistake rule your present AND your future. 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 and improve the situation, 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.