You hear it in music, and sometimes from friends and relatives.
“If I had turned left instead of right, if I hadn’t wasted so much of my life.”
While it is understandable that a person would wonder about what might have happened, it is also highly counterproductive. A person cannot go back in time and change the decisions they have made. It is impossible. So, why do we expend so much energy stumbling in regret, and what can we do to change this form of thinking?
I am an adult survivor of severe childhood trauma who has experienced almost three decades of recovery. I have been in psychotherapy since I was thirty years old, and have done more self-examination than almost anyone I know. I have learned so much, and much advice to offer those who live in regret of their past actions, and feel they have wasted time.
Three Important Ways to Let Go of Regret
The first thing I can say is to look at those mistakes and ask yourself, what can you learn from them? Since you can’t change history, how can you take what you’ve learned and build a better future for yourself? The insights you gain from this sort of thinking is tremendous. Mistakes suddenly become opportunities for growth, and that takes a lot of the sting of formerly perceived failures.
Another important way to stop wallowing in regret, is to pay attention to what you DO have TODAY and to leave that list of what you wanted in the past alone. Perhaps, if you take a hard look about you, there will be lots of things and people that wouldn’t be there had you made that other decision.
Your children, for instance. Had you not veered left instead of right at some point in your life, those wonderful young people might not exist.
Reexamining your values as to what makes you happy is an important part of letting go of regret. Many people believe if they were prettier, richer or more popular they would be happy. Is this true? Or is happiness something that one can achieve no matter our looks, social status, or popularity?
I have found the latter to be true. Happiness, I have discovered, involves loving yourself with all your flaws, and yes, all your wrong decisions from the past.
When you see yourself in your true light, as a human being who sometimes makes mistakes, you can let go of self-hate and accept yourself as you are today.
You Are Only Human with Human Flaws
Taking a long, hard and honest look at yourself and accepting what you see is vital to experiencing life without regret. I did it with a therapist, but others achieve this with a pastor or trusted friend. One cannot live in isolation with your thoughts and expect to achieve a relationship with yourself that is honest and true.
Seek Help, and Relax
Seek out help, and relax, I can guarantee that the once you are aware of what you have, what can make you happy, and that you are only human, you will never look back with regret again.
“It wasn’t a waste time if you learned something.” Felix H.