Regret is like a ghost. It arrives when we feel low or down in our lives and sticks around for a while – sometimes months, years, and even decades. Since misery does like company, it’s not a surprise that our uninvited “ghost” shows up in perfect timing, and it’s usually when we are reminded of the things we wish we had done differently in our lives.
The thing is, regret will only stay if we let it. In order to let go of his heavy burden and lingering ghost, we must first understand what we are regretting in our lives and why.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to live life with no regrets.
1. Reflect on Past Regrets
Everyone has had their fair share of things that they have regretted in their life, but the question to ask yourself is how long you have been carrying these burdens?
Guilt and regret weighs heavily on your mental health, which as a result can disrupt your physical productivity.
The first step is to acknowledge the things that you regret doing or not doing. The following step would be giving yourself space to explore in those things.
Remember, be kind to yourself when you are doing this. It takes a lot of courage to face the things that continue to cause us pain, guilt and suffering.
2. Have a Healthy Conversation with Yourself
Now, as you explore this space and begin addressing the things you regret, keep in mind that you are having a conversation with yourself. This isn’t a blame game and this space isn’t meant for you to slip down a rabbit hole of self-sabotage.
One way to avoid self-sabotage is identifying the things that are working against you. Holding onto regret is one form of self-sabotage, and moving forward means having healthier conversations with yourself to get to the root of “the thing.” There is a hidden root to the things we regret in life and finding it can help bring more clarity.
3. Find the Root
Let’s get to finding that root. We experience guilt and regret in different situations and circumstances in our lives whether it be our career, relationships, or even putting our needs in the back burner.
Here are several examples and getting to the root of these regrets:
Regret 1: I regret not accepting that job offer. I would have moved up to a senior position by now and be making x amount a year.
The regret here is about a missed opportunity. There’s a reason why you may not have taken that opportunity when it was presented and it can timing, personal reasons, or specific priorities that needed your attention at the time.
First and foremost, see if you are that same person you were at that specific moment of your life.
Are your values the same?
Do you still want the same things you did then?
What experienced have you gained from not taking the job?
Chances are, you may be a completely different person then as you are now. As humans, we are meant to grow and outgrow older versions of ourselves. The root here of the guilt is not about mourning a missed opportunity, but accepting that things may have changed – including you.
Here’s another one, but this time it’s about something that’s been done.
Regret 2: I regret moving to a new city. It’s not what I thought it would be and I’m not happy.
The regret here is moving to the unknown and there was a reason why you decided to take that jump.
Was it to try something new or was it because you’ve always wanted to live in this particular city?
Was it for someone or something?
Ask yourself these questions and then look at what your current needs are.
It’s also about living in the present, and by doing so your energy is not fixated on the regret itself but about finding the positives of what you thought was a negative situation.
Remember, every situation needs time to breathe.
4. Accept That You Are a Work in Progress
Everyday we are figuring out more and more about who we are or what we want in this one life that we live.
The greatest gift you can give yourself is acknowledging that you are a human being, and perfection does not exist. Forgive yourself for things you did not know when you made “regretful” decisions, and don’t let anything hinder your growth from here on forward.
Acknowledge that certain decisions were made because of what you wanted at that specific moment; it’s a way of honoring yourself. Holding onto regrets mean you are living in the past and honoring yourself means living in the present.
5. Value Your Time and Energy
Our energy is one of the most precious things we have control of even though most of the time it may not seem so.
Using time-management tools such as keeping a to-do list and delegating household tasks are helpful, but energy goes beyond just physical activities. We have emotional energies, too.
Be mindful of the energy you put into your physical work, in your relationships with partners, friends and colleagues, on hobbies, and other daily activities.
If you feel like your energy is being drained in certain aspects of your life, it’s your intuition telling you to check-in.
Choose one day out of the week and tune into how you feel during your daily routine:
- How do you really feel after checking your email the moment your alarm goes off?
- How present do you feel when you are eating your lunch hovered over your computer?
- How would it make you feel if you called versus sending a text message to your loved ones?
Also, set your non-negotiables. Value the things that are important to you and stick by them especially if it’s a set date and time. This is one way of honoring and putting yourself first.
Many times, regret happens when we don’t honor the things that nourish us mentally, physically and emotionally.
6. Don’t Wait for the Weekend to Rest
If you’re working Monday thru Friday, the moment Friday comes around a sense of relief may be washing over you.
“It’s the weekend!” you shout.
Every day should spark that emotion. Condensing all your me-time for the weekend may increase burnouts and bring instead feelings of unproductively. The weekend should not be a 48-hour countdown until Monday or a time to crank out your personal to-do list.
Carve out time everyday to unplug and fuel your soul with the things that you want to do. This could be anything from not checking emails after 6 p.m., putting your phone to airplane mode at a specific time, or simply playing the guitar every single day.
The more you fuel yourself with the things that make you happy, it’ll limit those excuses of “I regret not keeping up with learning the guitar” or “I regret not spending more time with my family because I was focused on work outside of work.”
Me-time is important.
7. Set Goals
It’s essential to set goals – long-term, short-term, big and small goals. When you set your goals and have a clear vision in mind, you have a focus.
Often, regret happens when we’re “not where we want to be” in life or when we don’t achieve certain things. One way to live a life without any regrets is to simply hone in on the things you want to achieve, and it’s even better when you can see it everyday.
Get out that pen and paper – it’s time to create a list.
This is the 101 things to do in 1001 days exercise. 1001 days is a little short of three years and will fly by before you know it. Having small fun goals is just as important as having big life goals. Although this list may seem like a bucket list (which it could be), it gives you a timeframe of 1001 days to complete the items on your list.
Don’t sell yourself short and be creative. You can section your list into categories such as career and travel, or write them down as they come to find. Every day is a new day. It’s another 24-hour reset, and the question to ask yourself is what you will do about it today.
Check out this ultimate guide to goal-setting to help you achieve your goals.
8. Learn from Others
“Frodo: ‘I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.’ Gandalf: ‘So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’” -The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring
When death arrives, our perception of the world changes. This moving article, “These 20 Regrets From People On Their Deathbeds Will Change Your Life” explains just that. We all think we’re immortal until we’re not. We all believe we are invincible until the world around us shows that we are equally fragile and delicate as our bodies. Here are some of the things that were listed:
- I wish I wouldn’t have compared myself to others
- I wish I’d told others how much I love them.
- I wish I didn’t wait to “start it tomorrow.”
Some of the most profound lessons are learned from not doing or not saying enough.
Do two things today:
The first thing is to tell someone you love them and are thinking about them.
The second thing would be to choose something you’ve always wanted to do and start today. No excuses.
Regret is a powerful emotion, and if not careful, it can consume your thoughts, energy, and time.
Several years ago, I made the conscious decision to laugh every single day including on the days I felt miserable. I knew that when my time came, I can look back and say that my life was filled with laughter and it’s the one thing that helps me feel alive.
Always remember that no matter what your situation is, you can kindly ask this “ghost” to leave, but it will only leave when you begin doing things for you.
Whatever it is, do it with passion and love.
More Articles About Living a Fulfilling Life
- Do You Want to Know the Secret to Living a Fulfilling Life?
- These 20 Regrets From People On Their Deathbeds Will Change Your Life
- How to Start Living Your Life Above Limitations
- The Ultimate List of 29 Goals for Living a Fulfilling Life
- 14 Things That Make You Happy And Enjoy Life More
Featured photo credit: Jeremy Bishop via unsplash.com