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Get Over Regret

Updated on May 1, 2017
Stephen Meadows profile image

Stephen is an accomplished networking guru and published author on the subject. If there is one thing he does well, it's network!

It's like the old song says, "Regrets. I've had a few." Need reminders? Just turn to social media! But what happens when we make business decisions that we wish we hadn’t? Personal life choices are sometimes easier to deal with. Are you in a bad relationship? End it. Don’t like your house? Move. Has a friend broken your trust? Find a new friend. However, business decisions usually have longer lasting and further reaching consequences. What if you regret a business partnership or leaving one job for another? Those decisions are not always as easy to reverse.

Don't Dwell on It

I positively refuse to live in regret. Sure! I have made bad choices in my life and career. That doesn’t mean I wallow in self-pity. I have learned that admitting that you made a mistake is the first step to correcting the issue. But I have also learned that you have to own your feelings of regret. Just because you wish you hadn’t done something, doesn’t make you a failure. Life is a series of learning experiences. Regretting a decision is perfectly acceptable. Just don’t keep focusing on it. It can be as simple as looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, “You know what? That was a bad call and I regret it. So what are we going to do about it?”

Make a Plan

Now that you have admitted that you made a bad call, it’s time to move forward. Regret is like quick sand that will suck you in and hold you tight. In order to free yourself, you have to make a clear plan of escape. I find that asking some questions is helpful to get my mind on the right track:

  • What exactly do I regret?” Sometimes there is only one aspect of a decision that needs to be addressed.
  • What lead me to make this decision?” You have to know your motivations so you can avoid making the same mistake again.
  • What is the best realistic outcome I can hope for?” Realistic is the operative word here. Without an end game, how will you know you have arrived at your destination?
  • Will change make me happy or is there a bigger problem?” Sometimes our discontent runs much deeper. You need to take an honest look at your life and decide what you need to be truly happy.

Once you answer some of those questions (or more), you can start to create a plan of attack. Try setting a time frame for the goal. It might not always be possible to resolve the situation right away. What is a realistic period of time? If your plan involves a new job, you need to start laying the groundwork immediately. Polish the resume. Reach out to contacts in the industry. Build up your value. These activities alone can help boost your self-esteem and loosen the hold that regret has on you. Just remember to not begin without a plan. You might end up right back where you started, or worse!

Share Your Pain. Share Your Plan.

As with any goal, you need to share it with your close friends and family. Regret will eat away at your soul. I have found that talking about my feelings helps me put them in perspective. Find 2 to 3 people that you trust to have your best interests at heart. Let them know how you feel and bounce ideas off them. They may have some insight you never considered before. They may even show you that your decision wasn’t as bad as you thought.

Reach out to network contacts that you trust and share your vision for the future. They may not know of an opportunity right now, but maybe 6-12 months down the road, something will cross their path. That’s why you need a time frame in mind. I should point out that telling business contacts about your feelings of regret is inadvisable. They don’t need to know your personal feelings or what is motivating you to make a change. No one wants to work with someone who always seems discontent or hard to please. Just let them know your goals and see what happens.

Keep Looking Ahead!

It’s important not to let regret cripple your ability to do your job or live your life. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s no reason to completely derail the rest of your life. Learn to push past it. In my life, every “bad” decision I made has brought me to something even better. I didn’t know it at the time and I sure didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, I wouldn’t be where I am today without those battle scars. I own my mistakes. Do I wish I had done things differently? In some ways, yes. However, I didn’t know then what I know now and probably wouldn’t be on this path. Life is a journey that sometimes can take us to some dark and scary places. We just have to keep moving forward. With supportive friends, family, and networking partners, we can hopefully navigate our way to a brighter future.

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