“No regrets. Just lessons learned.”
Missed opportunities, losses, failures, giving up too soon, and words that you can’t take back – these are a few of the things that people commonly have regrets about in their life.
So many of us secretly wish that we could hop into a time machine that can jet us back to those poignant times so that we can undo the mess that we created, using the wisdom that we have obtained in hindsight. It is not uncommon to encounter melancholic individuals who admit, “If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently.”
No matter how well intentioned we are, we will often find ourselves in situations where we do not react in the most intelligent or appropriate ways. It could be either due to a lack of knowledge, experience or emotional resources. For example, we might have hurt someone due to immaturity, or turned down a lucrative job offer because of a lack of self-confidence, or failed a test because of a lack of preparation.
For the longest time, I lived in the world of “should’ve would’ve could’ve” because I could not make peace with some of the not-so-groovy choices that I made in my 20s. I regretted not capitalizing on the prime of my youth, and wasting that time on careers and relationships that were not healthy for me.
Much to my surprise, the therapist that I was seeing at the time advised me to not dismiss my feelings of regret. She said that it was essential that I go through an inner process of mourning the loss of the dreams and the possibilities that I had envisioned for myself. This process I followed is similar to the 5 stages of loss and grief, which one follows after losing a loved one or anything of great value to them.
It was only after I faced my feelings of regret head-on and walked “through” my sadness, rather than “around” it, was I able to develop the insightfulness and objectivity to make sense of what I had gone through and re-write the narrative of my past. By putting a positive spin on the negative events that had occurred, I found the conviction and hope to move forward with courage on my journey.
I was able to make peace with the fact that life is not meant to follow a straight and predictable path. There will be bumps, detours and roadblocks along the way. Very frequently, we could be the cause of those unanticipated turbulences, and it is these incidents that we usually regret the most – the ones that occurred because of something we believe that we did or didn’t do.
The antidote to getting over the shame and remorse caused by feelings of regret is to realize that we can’t change the past. The only thing that we can do is shift our interpretation of what has occurred in the past. Once an experience has taken place, it is no longer part of our present, and the only way that we can re-live it is through our memories and thoughts.
It essentially turns into a movie reel, which gets stored into the deep recesses of our subconscious mind. It can be pulled out at any point for screening within our mental realm. What most people don’t realize is that they are the director of this movie and they are the ones who can decide what genre it’s going to be. They have the choice of making the film a comedy, tragedy, a drama, or even an inspiring biopic.
Someone that is tormented by regret will turn their movie into a sad tale of pain, tears and maybe even guilt. Regret is especially more toxic in cases where people attach their identity to their actions because they tend to blame their personal character for the regretful incidences. This dysfunctional behavior pattern gradually erodes their sense of confidence and self-esteem.
Regret will not only ruin the quality of your life but make you more susceptible to contracting serious illnesses. According to energy medicine practitioners and healers, most health ailments are nothing but physical manifestations of unaddressed emotional matters that we have been repressing for a long time.
If you are someone who is shrouded in deep regret, take heart in knowing that with some inner work and positive shifts in your perspectives, you can make peace with your regrets and move on. You deserve to be relieved from this heavy burden and to live in a state of repose and light-heartedness.
Here are a few steps that you can take to enable you to turn your regrets into inspiration:
- Stop beating yourself up: There is a tendency to be hard on ourselves when experiencing regret. That pesky inner critic within you will keep gnawing at your psyche as it constantly reminds you of the so-called blunders that you have made. While it is important to hold yourself accountable for the mistakes that you have committed, at some point, you have to let yourself off the hook and forgive yourself. Continuing to beat yourself up will do nothing but make you feel worse. Be proactive in your healing process by working towards silencing your inner critic and replacing it with more positive self-talk.
- Re-write your story: As the director of your life, you have the power to re-interpret anything that has occurred in your past. Just like any good story, there will be periods of sadness, tension and uncertainty, but, as long as you are alive, your story does not have to end on those notes. I suggest partaking in a journal exercise where you write down a new version of the story you have been telling yourself so far. Focus on the good that has come out of your pain, and how it’s made you the person that you are today.
- Learn from the lessons: An important aspect of your journal writing exercise is highlighting the lessons that you’ve learned from all those unpleasant incidents. Almost every spiritual leader espouses the importance of honoring all our experiences, especially the painful ones, because they have been purposefully placed in our lives to teach us valuable lessons and help our soul evolve. Every event and person that we come across is part of the Universe’s plan for our progress in our personal curriculum.
- Spread your knowledge: After going through a rigorous and deep period of internal processing, you will find that you are emotionally stable enough to view your experiences from a rational perspective. You can channel your newfound wisdom to enlighten others so that they can bypass similar obstacles and challenges that you had dealt with. Helping others is one of the most effective ways to alleviate your grief because you are using your story to guide and direct those that are deeply in need of it.
- Have faith in a Bigger Plan: Being hit by the pangs of regret can make one feel alone and hopeless – yet it is especially during these times that we need to put our faith on unseen benevolent forces that are working in our favor. We have to genuinely believe that there is a purpose to whatever we have gone though, and although it was painful and difficult, it is a stepping-stone that is leading us towards obtaining that which we truly desire. We also have to remind ourselves of the finiteness of our life journey here on Planet Earth and realize that we weren’t made to live in a state of apathy and misery. We’re created to live in a state of love, joy and abundance during our brief transit in this beautiful world.
Just as how farmers periodically burn down old crops and use the residue as fertilizers to nourish new seeds, we too can use the ashes from our past experiences to fertilize the soil of tomorrow, upon which we can plant seeds of hope. With the right care and attention, those seeds will eventually sprout into a full-blown version of the highest vision that we have for our lives.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Do you believe that it is possible to turn regret into inspiration? What are some steps that you can take to accomplish this?
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