We can’t turn back the clock of time. Good or bad, right or wrong, it is done. It’s over!
- Once the ingredients are mixed, we can not separate them apart.
- Once a word goes from our mouth, we can not take it back.
- Once we do an action, we can not choose another one in its place.
- Once wood is reduced to sawdust, you can’t make it back into a board
- Once Humpty Dumpty fell, all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again
- Once today arrives, it becomes too late to live in yesterday
Despite the fact that no one can not refute the obvious statements above, it is not uncommon for many of us still finding ourselves reworking yesterday. As a psychotherapist, I am struck by how many of my clients can not seem to leave the land of “if onlys” and “woulda coulda shouldas.”
For those clients, yesterday prevents them from living fully in today as guilt, regret and hindsight makes them so much wiser. They cannot forgive themselves for not “knowing better” at the time.
If only we knew everything when we were four!
The good news is that there is an alternative to the emotional paralysis of, “I should have known better-itis.” Instead of wishing you had known better and kicking yourself that you didn’t, how about giving yourself a second chance?
Give Yourself a “Second Chance Checklist”
1. Turn unproductive regrets into productive regrets.
Regrets are important in our life to help us self-correct. The key is to recover from and build on the sharp sting of regrets to look for the lessons learned and take comfort in the fact that these lessons make us wiser.
2. Take comfort in the fact that regrets help us develop empathy for others.
How would we ever develop real empathy if we never made a mistake or a wrong turn? It is regrets that keep us in check from being judgmental and arrogant. Thus, we become better people who, in turn, have more compassion and empathy for others. Empathy is considered to be one of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence.
3. The more wrong turns you made in retrospect, you increase the odds that your future choices will be more informed.
With so many lessons from mistakes or regrets, you will be in better shape moving forward. It can actually make it easier for us to be happier by living in today instead of yesterday.
4. Ask yourself – Did I do the best I could at the time? Undoubtedly, the answer will be “yes!”
In my 35 years as a psychotherapist, I have never heard otherwise. I have never met anyone who tried to be toxic or dysfunctional. People generally try their best, even if their best is not objectively healthy. Unhealthy people make unhealthy decisions and behave in an unhealthy way. People do not intentionally make self- defeating decisions. So consider it a noble effort to try your best, even if your best felt short and was misguided.
5. Moving from regrets is a ripe opportunity to work on the ability to forgive.
A lack of forgiveness for oneself or others is one of the most common reasons for depression, anxiety and interpersonal conflict. Thankfully, regrets give you the opportunity self-correct, and to develop the ability to forgive – it brings them right to the surface to work on. Strive to be thankful for this golden opportunity to release yourself of bitterness and negativity for good!
6. Use the broken pieces of unrealized dreams and disappointments as stepping stones towards a better future.
If you see shattered pieces of your life’s dreams as stepping stones or as parts of a beautiful life mosaic, you can appreciate those broken remnants. All your disappointments, no matter how small or how large, can be part of something so beautiful that it can be hard to imagine and can pave the way for building a better tomorrow!
You cannot change what happened to you, but you can change what you do with what happened to you.
So what are you waiting for? Give yourself a second chance. You deserve it!
What can you do to give yourself a second chance today? Let me know in the comments below.
(Photo credit: Second Chance Avenue via Shutterstock)