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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

Freelance Writer helping businesses and people to thrive.

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Last Updated on April 1, 2019

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

When we talk about happiness, we often think about staying happy all the time – every single day, every single minute with zero negativity. Many try to pursue this constant state of “happiness” as their ultimate goal, and avoid anything that may take it away from them.

But, what is the meaning of this type of “happiness”?

It’s a lot like your favorite food. The more often you have it isn’t always better. On the contrary, when you only have a chance to eat it sparingly, that’s when you really savor every bite. So is it the food itself that makes you happy, or is it how valuable it is to you when you are eating it?

Always remember that only by experiencing sadness do we understand what it is to be happy.

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Video Summary

Don’t Assume Others Are Always Happy

Most people see those who have seemingly perfect lives and assume they are happy all the time. Since childhood, we are conditioned to chase the idea of “happily-ever-after” that we see in fairytales. On social media, everyone tends to share only the best looking aspects of their lives. So, it’s very easy to have a distorted view of what “happiness” is around us.

In reality, there is always something missing, something lacking, or something unpleasant.

No one has a perfect life. Even the most glamorous celebrities or the richest billionaires have their own set of challenges and problems.

When we feel negative, we’re only focusing on a small fluctuating curve. As CEO of Lifehack, I’ve had to deal with countless problems, and some of them felt like real setbacks at the time. During those moments, it really seemed like these problems would be the life or death of my company and my life goals. But, I got through them; and, weeks, months and eventually years passed with many more ups and downs.

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You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.  Looking back now, a lot of those “really big” problems at the time now seem like only small blips in a long line of experiences. Recalling them in my mind now makes me smile!

Stop Trying to Be Happy–Just Be

It’s natural to want to be happy as often as possible.

So what can we do?

First, throw away the belief that a perfect life means happiness. Personally, I would be miserable if everything was perfect. It’s through experiencing the pains of lifelong challenges that drives us to care for others when they are experiencing similar trials. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to empathize. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t grow.

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To be truly happy, stop chasing permanent happiness.

It sounds like a paradox. But, what I mean is to accept that there will be ups and downs throughout life. Gracefully understand that happiness is a fluctuation of positive and negative events.

Understand the importance of gratitude. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment, flash back your memory to when you didn’t have something. I like to think about my career, for example. When I didn’t have a career I was passionate about, I felt lost and demotivated. I felt like everyone was figuring out their lives but me. But, when I found my purpose and started Lifehack, I was deeply happy, even before I realized I would be successful! This memory keeps me going when I hit tough spots. It takes the darkness to make us grateful for the light.

Happiness and Sadness Exist Together

What it all comes down to is this: your life will be filled with beautiful, happy and incredible moments–happy tears and joyous shouts and funny stories. But, your life will also be filled with rain and storms that never seem like they will pass while you’re going through them.

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But, whether your face is warmed by the sunshine, or your heart is dampened by the rain, know that it’s all part of the ebb and flow of life.

Treasure the happy moments and power through the sad ones. Don’t try to avoid “sad” or “negative” experiences, and blindly chase being “happy”. In the end you will achieve a true level of contentment in your life, based on meaningful experiences and achievements. Being able to create growth and meaning out of both positive and negative events — that is the true meaning of “happiness”.

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