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?