Even the most optimistic of us are not immune to the occasional lingering regret floating across our minds. As much as we try, there are some things that are harder to get past than others. Wishing that a different choice had been made is my definition of a regret. There is a laundry list to choose from when it comes to things we may regret or wish we could do over. Regret comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether large, medium, or small, how we mentally process them plays an important role in how we think about life, ourselves, and the world around us.
Hindsight is the catalyst for regret. Our state of mind plays a huge part in how we process the choices we have made in life. Over the past few years, I have been a student in the school of regret more than any other time in my life. It is especially prevalent when I am feeling run down, emotionally exhausted, and frustrated. One little drop can cascade into a waterfall if I allow my brain to get away from me. I am guilty of allowing regret to suck the wind out of my sails on more than one occasion. It is not pretty and feels terrible. We all have those moments where we are just too tired to fight the wave of disappointment and to only think about what could have been…if only.
I watched a video where strangers were asked to write their biggest regret on a blackboard placed in the middle of a city street. The one common word that appeared most often was the word not. Three letters. Not going to college, not following their dreams, not spending more time with family were a few. After the video ended, I realized not only how crippling regrets can be but also what an enormous toll carrying the weight has on so many of us.
Some regret things done, but most regret what was not done. My final decision to come out was fueled by my fear of getting to the end of my days and realizing that I did not live an authentic life. Dealing with the mess that ensued was less terrifying than imagining myself closeted for the rest of my life.
There are instances in our lives when we regret the things we may have said or actions we have taken that hurt other people. However, more often than not regret is directly linked to times when we let ourselves down. Sure, there are some choices we make that cannot be redone or altered. For example, you cannot undo getting married or having children. More commonly, we focus our laser beams on the things that we should have done rather than what we did do.
Unless someone invents a time machine which offers a way to go back and change things from the past, we all face the challenge of learning to move beyond whatever regret we may have. Knowing there are choices which cannot be undone may not offer much in the way of comfort, but it is comforting to know that we have the ability to do differently in the future. You live and learn. Make the best of what is in front of you and focus on the positive and lemonade out of the lemons. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
Life is a journey which is full of endless opportunities, possibilities, and prospects. What is going on in between our ears greatly influences the decisions we make at any point in time. Regrets are present reminders of the times we failed, gave in to fear, or just plain dropped the ball for any number of reasons we thought were good at the time.
Finding a way to let go of and move beyond our past decisions, or indecision, is the only way to dump the excess baggage from our mental and emotional cargo hold. Dwelling on the things we cannot change strips away our ability to make peace with what was and prevents us from being able to focus on what is and what can be. We always have a choice. Regretting not taking a chance on something should not deter us from taking chances in the future.
Being stuck in the past steals joy and robs many from their peace. I will say it again, we are not bound by our past. At any moment in time, this can easily be buried under beneath a growing pile of garbage if we do not remain committed to staying rooted in the present moment. Emptying our brains of past emotional trash, goes a long way in preventing the overflow and guarding against future regret.
Regardless of our situation, we are all capable of anything we set our minds to, work hard for, and deeply wish to accomplish. Regrets, if properly processed, teach us about ourselves more than anything else. We grow when we push past what our inner voices tell us and reach outside of our comfort zones. Look at it this way, energy that is spent on dwelling on regret is energy taken away from what is possible and right now. Ask yourself where you would rather spend your energy. I encourage you to do something today that you have always wanted to do but never have. Start small and work your way up from there. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.