4 Ways to Overcome Regret & Get Closer to Your Dreams

Like fear, regret has the ability to stifle our dreams and derail our goals.

Although there’s nothing wrong with reflecting on our past and learning from it, getting stuck on the mistakes we’ve made and constantly harping on how we wish we could go back and change them is nothing but a dead end.

Trust me, I know.

Back in 2003 I was living my dream. I moved to New York City to pursue my MFA in Creative Writing and I was full of energy, excitement, and inspiration. I just knew I was going to achieve my goal of being a writer in the Big Apple, but life had other plans.

Instead of taking advantage of the opportunities I had, I got distracted by work, a relationship, and before I knew it, I was faced with a life altering decision.

Just months before I finished graduate school I found out I was pregnant with my son and I had to quickly decide between moving home to have him in a supportive environment or staying in the city that I loved to try to follow my literary dreams. I picked the responsible choice and had my son, but for years I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I had chosen wrong.

The questions dogged me for years.

Did I blow my one chance at living the life that I wanted? Did I forfeit my dream of writing and living in the City that Never Sleeps? Would I ever get published? Am I really ready to be somebody’s mom?

Despite knowing (in my head) that I made the right choice, regret threatened to keep me trapped in a dangerous cycle of replaying my choices in the hopes that somehow, someway I could travel back in time and make a few better decisions.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. We can’t hit the rewind button to correct our mistakes and missteps. All we can do is learn from them and move forward better informed and better equipped to make wiser choices in the future.

Still, so many of us get caught in the past and are stalked by the sinking feeling that we effed up. But like fear, regret is a lie. We can’t go back. We can’t change the past; all we can do is do our very best next time around.

If you’re struggling with regret, here are four simple ways to beat it:

Stop living in the past: No matter how much you want to, you can’t live in the past. Stop trying; it will only drive you crazy.

Learn from your mistakes: The past is prologue and it’s one of the best teacher’s we have. Use your past to learn how to make your future better.

Forgive yourself: If you beat yourself up, life won’t have to. Whatever mistakes you’ve made in the past, don’t dwell on them. All of your missteps, challenges, and setbacks helped you become the person you are today. Say thank you and wear your scars proudly.

Move on: You cannot change the things that have happened. We can only learn from them, and appreciate the fact that we are different and wiser and more capable of change. But don’t well. Go forward.

Henry David Thoreau said it best:

“Never look back unless you are planning to go.”

And I don’t know about you, but I’m going full steam ahead until I accomplish all of my dreams.

Are you living in regret? How are you moving past it?


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  • http://adlibtraveller.wordpress.com Ad-lib Traveller

    Brilliant article Britni. “The past is prologue and it’s one of the best teacher’s we have”. This is something that so many of us could do well to remember. Thanks for posting!

  • Christa

    This is soo true. You don’t know the weight that comes off of me when I let go of what can’t be changed about the past. Knowing that I CAN go into my future, better because of the past, gives me energy and drive.

  • http://www.writeousbabe.blogspot.com javacia

    Great post! I often regret not moving to New York and wholeheartedly pursuing my writing dreams when I was younger, but sitting around dwelling on that is getting me nowhere. It’s time to move forward.

  • http://beautyandthestreetmag.blogspot.com Amber

    Awesome! There are quite a few things I regret doing in the past but I don’t dwell on it. Granted they are embarassing but we all do stupid things in our life and if people don’t want to move on from it that is their problem. The only way to have peace is to let go.


  • Jamie Carroll

    Great post, thanks!
    Sometimes I find myself living in the past, futilely creating scenarios in
    which I made better choices, but the truth is I needed to experience all that I
    have thus far to arrive at a place that I can truly live in the moment and look
    to the future. Whenever I find myself dwelling on what could have been, I
    remind myself that I have the fortune of another day in this world. I choose to
    carry the lessons of the past in the satchel of my dreams so that I can employ
    their devices whenever I approach a new territory in my life.

    • BritniDanielle

      Thanks for sharing Jamie!

  • Marie

    Thank you so much for this. I just moved abroad for graduate school and am struggling with regretting this decision to come here because my boyfriend is back home and I feel like I abandoned him in a really difficult time in his life and also I am not doing so well in adjusting to life here. Unfortunately, coming home is not an option now so I just have to learn to embrace this new country and new school. Your article has helped me to stop sobbing and start trying to forgive myself.