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How to Avoid Regrets After Making Decisions

How to Avoid Regrets After Making Decisions

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.[1] 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.

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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.

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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.[2] 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.

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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.[3] 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.

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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.[4] 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

Reference

More by this author

Craig J Todd

UK Writer who loves to use the power of words to inspire and motivate.

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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