How to Deal with Regret, Cope with its Consequences, Prevent it
Regret is a wasted emotion.
It is a draining, energy and moral sapping emotion based on past inaction, which can't be changed.
Regret is almost always triggered when something goes wrong or your life is plagued by things which you cannot fix.
As the line from the song 'I did it my way' says, paraphrasing 'Regrets I have had few - but then again, I've had too few to mention'.
The trick is too keep a lid on your regrets, keep them few in number and not let them affect you.
Regrets are usually defined as: 'sorrow or grief derived from the loss or desire for the loss of something or a failure to seize and opportunity for a change in direction in life.
Or to feel sorrow, distress or disappointment about something in your life that you wish could be different'.
It can also be defined as a 'looking back and remembering with longing or dissatisfaction; sorrow; grief; especially, a mourning because of the loss of some joy, opportunity, advantage, or satisfaction that would have produced a better outcome'.
Tips and Guides
Regret is to remember with a sense of loss, missed opportunity, mistakes or to wishes for alternatives - When you have regrets, how to you cope with them? Do you relish in the mire of your regrets, and go through all the 'If only' recalls and the “should of, would of, could of” scenarios? This is no way to deal with regret, and they have to be dealt with properly and rationally, otherwise they can become a noose around your neck that chokes your motivation and enjoyment of your life here and now and in the future. Regrets my cause much unhappiness, so deal with them.
It is better use of your energy to learn from your past mistakes. Focusing on missed opportunities, mistakes and disappointments will just choke you, because they are unreal and gone. Instead focus on what lies ahead. Realize that whenever one door closes in the past another one opens now and in the future if you learn from the past. Build the courage and determination to move on from your past - look ahead rather than behind you.
Accept your mistakes, learn from them and see them as opportunities to grow and develop - Deal with them and put them aside. Make a new motto for yourself “No Regrets, Ever” and post it in a place where you see it.
Process your regrets and analyse them in detail - Often they disrupt you because they are shallow thoughts that are unrealistic, they become distorted over time, and the opportunities you wish you took may have been unrealistic anyway? Evaluate your responses and learn from them so you won’t make the same errors or miss things in the future.
Learn to forgive yourself and any other people involved - Forgiveness is a crucial first step in avoiding the self-punishment derived from your feelings of regret. It this punishment really justified and what does it achieve? Forgiveness is a powerful medicine, and is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself. (see Self Compassion | Mindful Self Respect and Compassion for Self ). Tell yourself that past mistakes helped you to grow into who you are today. Forgive myself and move forward charged by what you have learnt.
Set a goal for yourself to write down all your regrets on a list and how you can deal with them or have dealt with them - Just writing them down helps to clarify them and make them more realistic. Best realistic and re-assess the list of issues and responses from time to time. But having developed the list you will have cleared your thoughts and stopped them buzzing around and interfering with your life now.
Extinguish negative feelings - Your negative feelings belong in the past and leave them there. Visualize transferring those pent-up negative feelings back to the past when they occurred, when you were less smart than you are now, having learnt the lessons they provided for you.
Always look for what you can learn and how to grow and benefit from the things you regard as regrets - It is harder to feel something as a loss when you focus on the benefits and lessons learnt. Use the mistakes you make as teaching tools and they will fade as seeds of regret.
Learn to identify and deal with your weaknesses - Often you may have made mistakes or failed to grasp opportunities because of some weaknesses in your personality such as not being assertive enough and indecisive. Improve yourself by overcoming these weaknesses. This include learning to be more adaptive and 'going with the flow' rather than expecting a smooth and uninterrupted path on your journey.
Learn to focus on things you can control and ignore what you can't - Some things are out of your control and you may have unrealistic expectations that you can control all the circumstances. This is unrealistic as you can only control your responses to what happens.
Embrace change as inevitable - Everything in life changes. You can't wind back the clock. But you can learn from your mistakes and adapt the changes in the best way possible.
Continually evaluate and work on your relationships - Don't neglect tending your relationships like tending a garden. This can be very positive and nip issues in the bud before they develop into problems.
© 2012 Dr. John Anderson