We’ve all made them. In fact, they’re a part of life. But what would you do differently if you had the chance? Ask someone about their regrets and you will learn a lot. That’s because everyone can think of at least one thing they wish they had done another way.
But the guilt over past mistakes can become paralyzing if it consumes us.
Regrets can either burden your life or motivate you to move forward. You cannot undo or redo what has been done or not done. You can, however, take steps to get over the guilt and move past regrets.
Take a look at these steps for reframing your regrets and doubts of the past, and turn them into the possibilities of today.
As our good friend, Bob Ross, used to say, “There are no mistakes – only happy accidents.”
Occasionally we go through life unhappily and not truly knowing why. Regret over a past mistake you committed could be causing you to feel this way.
Being regretful involves feeling bad about something you wish you had done differently. You may regret things you did do (regret of action), or regret things you didn’t do (regret of inaction).
It’s important to understand the source of your remorse and to acknowledge your rationale for doing, or not doing, whatever happened at the time.
Before you can accept that what’s done is done, you need to grieve the regrets that are presently holding you hostage.
If you feel you mistakenly missed out on an opportunity because of past decisions – such as not having children or not being closer with a family member, then take the time to grieve that loss.
If it’s not too late to alter the feeling of regret by taking some kind of action like reconciling with that family member, then take advantage of the opportunity now. Sometimes we have the opportunity to apologize if we regret how we handled a situation with another person. If there is something you can do now, do it!
Forgive, make amends, and convey your regret. We do not always have that chance, but we still need to express these upsetting emotions that could be limiting our present happiness.
Write your feelings out – if only just for yourself. Bring these swarming, remorseful feelings out of your head and onto paper. Write them in a journal, or write them on a piece of paper to destroy in a way that makes you feel more fulfilled – like burning it.
Furthermore, while you’re in the process of writing, remove the words, “If only…then” from your vocabulary. Understand that worrying about the past is a potent prescription for stress and health problems. Do not make the guilty feelings more powerful by your fixation with them. You deserve to be good to yourself and have others be good to you too.
Some regrets can be devastating and are not to be minimized. But there is no “delete” button for past actions or inactions. And while it may be very difficult, try to find some element of good that has come from that situation.
Remember that line from Bob Ross we mentioned earlier? “There are no mistakes – only happy accidents.” We have no choice but to accept what has happened and to think of the current options we do have.
And, while you may not be able to get over the consequences of prior decisions, you can let go of obsessing over them.
Make changes in your behavior to avoid similar faulty situations and decisions that brought you guilt in the past. Do not lose the lesson from the supposed loss. Consider what you could do differently today and start moving that way. How can you be a better parent, a better friend, or a better spouse?
Stop “beating yourself up” emotionally because of yesterday’s decisions and instead assess what choices you do have! It is never too late for many life opportunities – to go back to school or to learn a new skill, to connect with others in meaningful relationships, or to change your negative self-perception or attitude.
Grow past the pain of mistakes.
Grow past the shame.
Be deliberate. Be active.
Be involved in things that will bring you gladness, not guilt, for today and for the future.
If you are looking for extra help moving forward, Centerstone is here for you. Call 1-887-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) to get connected with care.
If you are in crisis, please call our crisis line, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.
If you're still having trouble and would like to reach out to someone about counseling or other Centerstone services, contact us.
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