Regret is a wasted emotion because there is nothing we can do to change the past. When we turn our regret into inspiration and lessons, we can become wiser and stronger. Learn how you can make this shift by changing your story and be healing your emotions. (Estimated reading time: 5 minutes)
“No regrets. Just lessons learned”— Unknown
Missed opportunities, losses, failures, giving up, and words that you can’t take back – these are a few of the things that people have regrets about.
So many of us secretly wish that we could hop into a time machine, that can jet us back, so that we can undo the mess using the wisdom that we gained later. It’s 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 don’t react in the most intelligent or appropriate ways for several reasons: lack of knowledge, experience or emotional resources.
For example, we might have hurt someone because we got triggered, or turned down a lucrative job offer because we lacked confidence, or failed an important test because we didn’t prepare enough for it.
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 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.
The process I followed is similar to the five 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.
The antidote to getting over the shame and remorse caused by 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 becomes a movie reel which gets stored into the deep recesses of our subconscious mind. We can pull it out at any point for screening within our imagination. What most people don’t realize is that they are the director of this movie and they get to choose the genre.
As the director the movie of your life, you can make it a comedy, tragedy, a drama, or even an inspiring biopic, depending on your perspective.
Someone that is tormented by regret will turn their movie into a sad tale of pain, tears and maybe even guilt.
Regret is especially toxic when people attach their identity to their actions Focusing on flaws because of a mistake they made erodes their sense of confidence and self-esteem.
Regret not only ruins your self-image, but it makes you more susceptible to illnesses. According to energy medicine practitioners, 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 experiencing deep regret, take heart in knowing that with some inner work, you can make peace with your regrets and move on.
Here are a few steps that you can take to turn your regrets into inspiration:
1. 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.
2. 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 doing 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.
3. Learn from the lessons: Almost every spiritual leader espouses the importance of honoring all our experiences, especially the painful ones, because of the valuable lessons they can offer us. Make note of everything you learned from the experiences you regret and how it contributes to your growth and maturity.
4. Spread your knowledge: After processing the experience on your own, you can channel your newfound wisdom to enlighten those facing similar obstacles and challenges that you had dealt with. Helping others is one of the most effective ways to alleviate your grief because you’re using what you learned for good.
5. Have faith in the future: 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 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.
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 for the seeds that we plan tomorrow.
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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I am sure there are some situations and some examples of regret that can be used as growing opportunities and moments to learn things.
However I think many regrets, at least in my life, are simply that regrets over things I did not do or could not do or things that did not go the way I had hoped. Some things might change but I don’t see that working for mine…reading your article has helped me make peace with some of so thank you.
You’re welcome Laquina. Just remember that it is a process and it will get easier with time. Best wishes to you!