You and your partner both love dogs. And after much discussion, you decide to go ahead and purchase a cute dalmatian puppy.
At first, you’re so excited by your puppy’s boundless energy and non-stop playfulness. However, after a few days, your enthusiasm begins to wane. This is due to your puppy chewing a pair of your best shoes, scratching your wooden floor – and urinating on your sofa!
After these unfortunate events, you’re probably starting to regret acquiring your puppy.
Regret Is More Common Than You May Think
When you blame yourself for a bad outcome, or feel sorrow as a result of a choice you’ve made – you’re experiencing regret.
Regret can take many forms, including: a sense of loss after the break-up of a relationship, frustration after failing to capitalize on a career opportunity, and a feeling of intense sadness after you were unable to see a parent in their final days.
Research shows that 90 percent of us have a major regret about something in our lives. The most common regret is related to romance, followed by family, education, career and finance.
While regrets can highlight to us where we have gone wrong, they can also cause us to be hesitant and afraid of decision making.
Can Regret Be Harmful to You?
The question above can be answered with one word… Yes!
Think for a moment about a decision you made in your life that you later deeply regretted. Perhaps this was the career path that you chose, that put money before contentment. Although you’re now financially comfortable – you ache for what might have been. Your childhood dreams of being an actor or a musician never had the chance to be fulfilled. (For example.)
Regret such as this, can plague your mental well-being for the rest of your life. You may even become bitter and depressed about the lost chances, and the failure to develop your innate talents.
This brings us to decision making. This is at the heart of everything we do.
If we make a series of good decisions, our life is likely to be happy and successful. If we make a series of bad decisions, our life is likely to be gloomy and unrewarding.
So yes, regret can be harmful to you. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Take These Steps to Avoid Regret (Or at Least to Cope with It)
Let’s turn now to some specific ways of avoiding or dealing with regret.
If There’s Nothing You Can Do – Let It Go
Highly-successful entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington know that winning involves a lot of losing!
This losing could include: failed business ventures, personal bankruptcy or even personal scandal. Whatever the cause, successful entrepreneurs have learned how to let go of failures and move on to victories. If they were to spend time and energy regretting every decision that led to failure, they would quickly lose their entrepreneurial spirit.
It should be the same for you. If you’re still regretting a decision you made months or years ago, and there’s nothing you can do about it – just let it go.
Don’t Blame Yourself Too Much
It’s widely believed that forgiving others is easier than forgiving ourselves. Unfortunately, this means that we are also likely to blame ourselves more often than we should.
Let’s say you had a minor car accident that you believed was your fault. But how sure are you that it was 100 percent your mistake? Perhaps the lighting, weather or road conditions had an effect? If the accident involved another driver, could they have been partially at fault too?
Once you are aware of the psychological tendency for individuals to take too much of the blame for something, you can begin to see a fairer and more realistic picture.
Learn from Your Mistakes
It’s easy to allow regrets to splinter your happiness and shatter your dreams. However, there is another way.
Instead of wallowing in regret, look for the cause of what went wrong, and see if you can learn from it.
For example, you’ve posted something stupid on social media, and now you’re worried that it might impact your career prospects. Despite your best efforts, you’ve been unable to delete all traces of the post.
It’s at this point that you should take a step back, and admit to yourself that you made a mistake (a stupid, senseless post). While you may not be able to correct the mistake – you can certainly learn from it. You can make an effort to ensure that your future posts to social media are free from controversial comments and embarrassing photos.
Choose to Right Your Wrongs
The older you get, the more likely you are to experience regret. One reason for this, is the fact that as you age, it gets harder to right your wrongs. This can make regrets increasingly painful.
Because of the above trend, it’s important to tackle your regrets without delay.
Let’s say that you regret taking a book from your school library and never returning it. Years after the incident, you still feel bad about it. Instead of doing nothing – choose to take action. If you still have the book, you could send it back to the school (anonymously if necessary). If you don’t have the book anymore, why not donate an alternative book to the school’s library?
Righting our wrongs can immediately break us free from our regrets. Try it, and see for yourself.
Improve Your Decision Making
In life, you need to make innumerable decisions every day. What clothes to wear. What food to eat. What friends to call. (To name but a few.)
There are also major decisions that you must make in life. These include choosing a partner, a career path, and a place to call home.
Clearly, knowing how to make good decisions is an essential skill for a happy and successful life. And that’s not all. By regularly making favorable decisions, you’ll have fewer things in life to regret about.
Release Negative Emotions by Writing Yourself a Letter
You may have done some things in the past that you are not proud of. They may even horrify you.
One way to liberate yourself from these regrets is to write yourself a letter. Not just any letter, though. This will be a highly-personal letter that lists your major regrets, and what you think was the root cause of them. For instance, you might write something like this: “I deeply regret treating staff in my team in a patronizing and demeaning fashion. They did nothing to deserve this. I see now that the fault was in my court. And the cause was my lack of self-confidence and belief.”
Regret is the second most often mentioned emotion after love. Despite this, it’s possible that you’ve never given regret any serious thought. It could be time for you to change this.
Consider how regret may be holding you back in life – and determine to do something about it.
Featured photo credit: tpsdave via pixabay.com
|||^||Huffington Post: 90 Percent Of People Say They Have A Major Regret. Here’s How To Move Past It|
|||^||WebMD: Learning to Forgive Yourself|
|||^||Happify: How to Live a Life Without Regrets|
|||^||Happify: How to Live a Life Without Regrets|