No matter how good our decisions have worked out for us in our life, there are always regrets that we wish we could let go of. Whether it’s dealing with big regrets such as choosing the wrong career, letting the love of our life get away, hurting someone we love, or making a bad investment. Or smaller regrets such as eating that burger when you should have eaten a salad, or being a bit too snarky to a co-worker. Either way we all have to deal with regret in some way.
The important thing to understand is that regret is not all bad. It can push us to be better people. It can empower us to be more kind to others, to spend more time with our loved ones, to be healthier, to be more responsible with our money and so on. So being regretful does have its benefits. But, regret can also hold us back. If we do not learn how to use it for our benefit, and become better, then it can become debilitating. If regret has been more of a hindrance to you then this article is for you. You will learn how to let go of regret and move on.
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Why Letting Go of Regret and Moving On is Important
Before we get into the how, I’d like to spend a moment discussing the why. The reasons we must let go of regret and move on are many but here are three that I think are very important for you to understand.
Not Dealing With Your Regret Will Affect Your Self-Love and Self-Worth
I believe strongly that the core of living a happy, fulfilling life is loving and respecting the person you see in the mirror. That is a major reason why I founded You Are Beyond Enough. To help people learn self-love, and value themselves. Regret will prevent you from truly seeing your self-worth and how important you are. When you focus on past mistakes, you may continue beating yourself up, feeling like a disappointment, and focusing too much on your flaws. This is why you must let go of regret, so that you are free to truly love who you are.
Prevents You From Looking Forward
How can you look forward and move on with hope and motivation if you keep looking back? You can’t. You can’t do anything about the past so it’s a waste of time and energy to focus there. Yet, we tend to do just that. This can affect many areas of life. If we regret a past relationship decision, it can affect us from having a great relationship in the future in a number of possible ways. You may feel unworthy of future love, or lose hope that there is someone out there for you. If we regret saying hurtful things to a loved one, it can prevent us from re-building that relationship. We may feel we don’t deserve to be forgiven, for instance. Not learning to deal with that regret, can cause us to miss out on some amazing opportunities.
You Consistently Feel “Stuck”
When you cannot learn to let go of regret, you’ll continue to feel stuck. No matter what you do, you cannot escape your past. A bad decision or a decision you failed to make will haunt you. I like to think of regret as a ball and chain. No matter what you do in life, getting anywhere seems impossible. No matter how happy you are, a sudden recollection of a past mistake can change your mood in an instant.
For many reasons, including these very important three, you must learn to let go of your regret. Here are 6 ways to to so.
How To Let Go of Regret
Perhaps there is a reason why you still have regret. Dive deep and see if there is something there that you are supposed to learn. If you can figure out what that is, perhaps it will help you to move on. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is it specifically that I regret about this situation?
- What should I do or not do because of what did or did not happen?
- If faced with the same situation today, what will I do?
Sometimes we experience regret with emotion only and not logic. By taking time to answer these questions, you are able to dive deeper and look at things from a different, more logical perspective.
Another way to let go of regret and move on is to accept what happened. It happened, and right now you can’t do anything about it. Miguel Ruiz says, “The human is the only animal on earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake.” You can’t keep suffering for something in your past. Own what happened, accept it, and look ahead.
Express Your Feelings To Let Go Of Regret
We tend to bury our feelings surrounding things that we regret. Instead of getting them out, we keep them inside and stew in them alone. Sometimes all we need to let go of regret and move on is to express how we feel about what happened. A great way to do this is to talk to someone. If that seems too daunting, then journaling has also been proven to help with unexpressed emotions. Journal about the experience and how you are feeling about it. Getting it all out will help you deal with the regret that you have been holding on to.
Quiet Your Inner Critic
When we deal with regret, typically we have a running internal dialogue that puts us down and reminds us of our screw ups. It’s time to stop letting this inner critic dominate your thoughts. Here are two great ways to silence your negative voice.
Divide a sheet of paper in half. On one side, write down all the things your inner critic says. On the other side, write a compassionate rebuttal. Just forcing yourself to look at things from another perspective will help to quiet your inner critic.
Affirmations are also a powerful tool to change your internal dialogue. Whatever you tell yourself, affirm the opposite. If you tell yourself,” I’m not good enough,” affirm, “I’m a good person and I do great things.” Here are some others:
- “I am worthy of all the compassion and kindness life offers me.”
- “I accept that I did the best I could at the time with what I knew.”
- “It’s easy to let go of all self-judgement and self-sabotage.”
Deal With Regret By Appreciating Yourself
We all make mistakes, but we aren’t all bad either. Sometimes it’s easy to lose focus on the value you bring to the world and others, especially when you hold on to regret. Make sure you spend time appreciating and loving all the good that you have done. Write out all the things you love and appreciate about yourself, no matter how small. What nice things have you done for others? What have others said they appreciate about you? Create a list and keep this list on you. Look at it as a reminder that you have good in you. Even though you have made mistakes, or made bad decisions, you also did many things that were right.
Learn to forgive yourself for your past. Realize that you did what you could with the knowledge and ability that you had back then. Now you are much wiser and able to make better decisions. We all make mistakes. Imagine someone close to you messing up. Can you forgive them? If so, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t forgive yourself. Have some empathy, kindness, and compassion for yourself.
My Personal Experience
As I personally look back at my life, the older I get, I catch myself sometimes regretting decisions I’ve made or haven’t made. For me the biggest regret is not overcoming fear and following my dreams while I still had my youth. I know many people who look back and say, “what if I had just did this sooner or taken a chance?” For those of us that are older, use that regret to motivate you to overcome your fear now, and take a chance. Use the tips covered here to move on with new passion and purpose. See regret as your ally. For you younger people, avoid having this regret when you get older. Do it now. Love yourself, believe in yourself, and follow your heart.
It’s important that we learn to let go of regret and move on. If we do not, then it will affect our ability to love who we are. It will also prevent us from looking forward with hope and excitement, as well as keep us feeling stuck.
Deal with regret by diving deeper into the regret. What’s another perspective you can take? Learn to accept your regret and express your feelings surrounding what happened. Don’t let your inner critic dominate your thinking, take time to appreciate who you are, and learn to forgive yourself. We are only human.
What would your life look like in a year from now if you do not learn to let go of regret and move on? On the flip side, what would your life look if you could? Let me know in the comments below.