Living with regret can be one of the hardest things to deal with in life. Regretting the past – whether over past mistakes, past decisions, or things not done – can be a massive burden on your soul and can occupy your mind relentlessly. Regret drains you and keeps you locked in a negative mindset. But there is a way forwards from these feelings of regret and in to a more positive space. This post will show you how to deal with regret, show you that you do not need to live with regret, and take you through how to get over regret and finally move on.
My experience living with regret
You may know from reading this site that I have suffered greatly with regret over not going after my dreams enough and feeling like I wasted so much time in my life because of this. I knew for quite a long time that I wanted to be a Film Director, but I was too scared to go after it to the point that I hardly took any action until I found myself, years later, in a pit of regret and self-loathing.
Fortunately, I have found my way through that now and am going after my dreams. But I still get feelings of regret over that lost time and the bad decisions I made. These feelings of regret can be very hard to deal with and it can be tempting to let them occupy my mind. But I am here to tell you that I made it through these feelings of regret and so you can too.
It won’t be easy to let go of the regret, but trust me when I say that you can stop living with regret and you can move on. And, more than that, you can use your feelings of regret in a positive way and go after everything you want in life – you can use your feelings of regret to go out there and seize the day.
Living with regret is a waste of your life
Fundamentally, living with regret is a massive waste of your life. I don’t need to tell you that, as I know you know it. It’s very likely that it occupies your mind on a regular basis, and for large chunks of time. How long have you spent thinking about the things you regret? How much time have you wasted thinking about all the things you regret?
I mean, really, if you add it up, how much time would it be? Hours? Days? Weeks? It doesn’t matter how long it is, that time is all wasted. Soon enough, you regret the amount of time you have spent regretting things! Woah.
Living with regret drains your energy
And it’s not only the wasted time thinking specifically about the regrets you have that is a problem. It’s also a problem because, after these feelings of regret, you are usually left mentally drained or unfocused. So the time afterwards is wasted because you can’t focus fully on something else you want to do.
This drained energy also carries on in to other areas of your life. Maybe you are meant to be spending time with a loved one, but you have no energy from thinking about your regrets, so you don’t spend quality time with them. Perhaps you don’t even want to go out and see other people because you are so drained from regretting the past. So you cut yourself off from others from needing to rest your mind, and then you are left with other feelings, like of isolation or loneliness.
Feelings of regret stop you feeling more positive things
When your mind is occupied by these negative feelings of regret, you cannot feel positive things. It is very hard for your mind to think about two different things at once, and to feel multiple things at once. So it makes sense that if you are feeling regret, you are not feeling something more positive that can help you.
And we want to feel positive things that help us. We want to be moving forwards in life, going after things that mean something to us, spending time with people that mean something to us, and generally living a life of growth and positivity. I mean, who wants to spend their life being miserable or upset over the past?
If your mind is occupied thinking about things that you regret and generally regretting the past, then your mind is blocked from feeling good because you’re so caught up in this negative mindset. So we have to clear this space and let go of the regret so we can feel more positive things and think about things that serve us.
Regretting the past will stop you living in the present
You must have heard people talk about the importance of living in the present moment – not in the past, and not in the future. Well, regretting the past will keep you firmly in the past. And the living in the past will only hold you back in life.
You see, when you live in the past, you miss what is right in front of you. Maybe you could be having a magic moment with your partner on holiday somewhere, but you are busy thinking about your regrets. Maybe you are at a theatre show but you are occupied thinking about a bad decision you made that you are ruminating on, and you miss the performance that you can’t easily see again. Maybe you are with your kids who are growing up fast, but you’re too busy thinking about how you have spent too long in the wrong job that you hate, and then you completely miss special moments with them.
All the time you spend living with regret over the past is actively stopping you doing things with your life that bring you joy. These feelings of regret that occupy your mind serve only to stop you experiencing the life that is happening in front of you right now.
And what we are doing right now is of the most importance. When we live in the present, then we are truly living. So let’s stop living in the past by holding on to these regrets. Let’s let go of regret and start living again!
How to deal with regret
The way to deal with regret is to face it head on once-and-for-all. You cannot hide behind the feelings of not having the time or energy to deal with it. I know it can be tempting to say you have no energy and that you will deal with it tomorrow or next week or when you feel better, but that is a recipe for living in this state of negativity for even longer, and who really has time for that?
You have to take active steps to deal with your regrets, work through what you are feeling, and take steps to move forwards. Otherwise you will end up looking at your life further down the road and realise you regret how much time you spent regretting the past. And wouldn’t that be ironic?!
How to get over regret and move on
So what are those steps exactly? Well, the steps revolve around using the feelings of regret in a positive way. Rather than getting stuck thinking about how we hate having so much regret, let’s use that feeling of regret to serve us and to teach us what we should be doing and how we should act.
So let’s break this down and make it really simple. The way to get over regret is as follows:-
How to get over regret
- Identify exactly what you regret
What is it, specifically, that you regret? The more specific you can get the better. If you are too general with this, then it will be much harder to identify how to move forwards, and it will only take you longer to get over these feelings. For example – yes, you may regret wasting time, but WHY do you regret wasting time? Do you actually regret not going after your dreams? Do you regret not starting a business? Or, another example – do you regret choosing the job you are in? Okay. Why is that? Do you regret not going after a job you would find more challenging? Do you regret not working abroad? Get as specific as you can and write it down.
- Figure out what you wish you did instead
If you can work out point 1., you can likely work out what you wish you did instead. So, for example, if you regret that you didn’t start a business and, instead, you went after some corporate job, it is pretty obvious that you wish you started a business. If you regret wasting time, do you wish you did something specific with that time? Do you wish you travelled more and had more unique experiences? If you regret not going after your dreams in life, what would it have looked like if you went after those dreams?
- Work out if it still makes sense to do that thing you wish you did in 2. or if there is something better you can do now
You may regret not doing something in the past, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do now. Just because something was the right thing to do then, doesn’t mean you should now throw yourself in to doing that thing. So you have to ask yourself if there is something better you can do now. Let’s say, for example, that you want to be an author, and you wish you worked in publishing instead of banking. Now you still want to be an author… does that mean you should go in to publishing? Well, possibly not. It might make more sense for you to focus on writing a book. Maybe back then you wanted the experience of working at a book publisher, but you may have the knowledge of that field now and know it won’t serve you as well as writing a book would. This is really important to know. So work out what the best thing is you can do NOW, not then.
- Do the thing you identified in 3.
Simply, go do that thing that you have identified in point 3. Don’t waste more time not going after it. You do not want to end up regretting wasting time living in regret. That would be an EVEN BIGGER waste of time! So, take action now.
- Focus on all the positive things you are doing now
After you have started taking action, or if you already have, focus on those positive things instead. You need to re-train your mind to stop thinking about the negative that are feelings of regret. Rather than constantly living with regret, live in a state of positivity over what you are doing or what you have done. Once you start focusing on those things more, then you will feed your positive feedback loops and you will want to keep doing positive things. This cycle will help you move forwards until you no longer have the feelings of regret, but, instead, feel happy with that you are doing with your life.
- Get grateful.
When you are doing positive things for yourself and when you are focused on doing those positive things, you will soon realise that you have a lot to be grateful for. And that’s a great position to be in. When you are grateful, you don’t think about negative things. And, like point 5., this will feed in to your positive feedback loop. You will start to see all the things that you can feel grateful for and you will start to see new opportunities, or, dare I say it, the things that you now have that you may not otherwise have had, had you not done the things/made the decisions you regret in the past. Being grateful is one of the most positive states you can be in and this is fully available to you if you work through these steps.
If you do the steps above then you will either automatically let go of the regret, or you will be in a position to finally make a decision to let go of it. And, remember – it might take time. You have likely found yourself conditioned to think about the regret, to focus on it, and to generally not feel positive about the situation. So go in to this knowing that it will take time, it will take effort, and you may have to keep trying over and over again.
But, eventually, it will get better. Eventually you will get over the regret. Eventually you will feel good about your situation and be happy. Just trust in the process.
Use feelings of regret in a positive way
It’s really important that we use our past experiences in a way that serves us. There is so much opportunity in these feelings of regret. They show you exactly what you wish you did in the past and you can use that to realise what you should be doing going forwards. That is such a positive thing that some people never learn to identify. Wherever you can, use negative experiences to create positive experiences, and remember that when nothing goes right, go left.
Go ahead at take the regret as a lesson to move forwards and seize the day now. You may not have done that in the past, but you can look at the time you have wasted not doing the thing you have identified, and use that as fuel to take advantage of every day that you have.
In a weird way, having these feelings of regret can be a blessing – they show you what you need to do now. You just need to go ahead and seize the day using what you now know.
‘But my regrets are really hard to deal with’
There are, of course, different difficulties/levels/types of things you can have regret over. It could vary from regret over a job choice, to regret over your relationship with a family member, to regret over how you have handled your entire life. Each kind of regret will be harder or easier to deal with than another. But just because something is hard or seemingly insurmountable does not mean NOTHING can be done about it or that it CAN’T be dealt with – it just may take more focus, time, and energy. But it doesn’t matter what the regret is, you CAN deal with it. You CAN work your way through it.
And if you feel like there is no way you can address the past regret or do something different (so for point 3. in the list above) – perhaps you regret your relationship with a family member who has passed away, for example – try thinking outside of the box. Force yourself to come up with something that helps you to move forwards. In this example of a departed family member – Can you honour that person in another way? Can you pay your respects in some way? Can you reach out to another family member?
I know things can seem hard, overwhelming, and impossible to deal with sometimes. But just give yourself the time and the freedom to come up with solutions and take action on them. Even if they seem hard or like they won’t work. And if they don’t work initially, don’t get down on yourself. Just keep going. Try something new. Come up with new ideas. You will find a way through, and you will be able to let go of the regret and move on. Trust me.
You do not need to keep living with regret – go out and seize the day!
Please do not read this post and then do nothing about these feelings you have. You do not need to live with regret in your life. Use what you have learnt in the post to get over the things you regret. Use it to let go of the feelings of regret, move on, and live in a positive state. Use what you have learnt to finally move on and seize the day.
Letting go of regret will help you to live in the present moment and experience life to the full. Explore these feelings you have and let them guide you in the right direction. I know that, deep down, you know exactly what you should be doing and how you can feel better about yourself and your situation. So just trust that, once you taken action on that and decide to let go of your past regrets and use them in a positive way, you will feel better about your life and you will start having a good time again.
Getting over regret can be one of the most liberating things you can do, so I truly hope you use the information in this post to finally deal with your regret.
Please do let me know how you get on in the comments below, and feel free to reach out if you think I can help you.
If you are the kind of person that takes a great deal from short quotes, check out these regret quotes that may help jolt your mind in the right direction.
Perhaps you regret your job choice and now are left thinking, “I don’t know what to do with my life“. Well, that post will help you to figure it out.
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