As 2020 begins, let’s do something different. Instead of resolutions, why don’t we face and make peace with regrets?
Regrets are current situations which you perceive could be happier if you would have done something differently. We blame today’s problems or unhappiness on something we did or didn’t do in the past. For example, not walking away from an abusive relationship, telling a lie, buying impulsively, over-drinking or eating, or not working toward our dreams. What do they have in common? They are in the past, and we have zero control of the past, therefore making past regrets real, but unwise to hoard.
Truthfully, regrets are healthy. If we didn’t have regrets, we would have characteristics of a sociopath. Good people feel bad if they have done something wrong, stupid, or hurtful. It is an unhealthy person who says, “I did nothing wrong!”
Regret feels awful. We wonder how we did such a thing and emotionally kick ourselves. Regrets can last a lifetime, and we don’t get do-overs.
Buyer’s remorse is an example of regret. I once bought an entire room of furniture for my counseling office, including a rug, lamps, and sculpture for the sofa table. I woke up in a panic and my mind raced with thoughts of canceling my credit card or returning the items. I hated
myself, felt shameful, and had symptoms of a physically illness.
Regret can include what we wished we would have done, had done differently, or had never done. I have a long list of regrets, and they visit in the early morning hours when I can’t sleep. My mind runs every stupid decision from my entire life on a full-color movie screen.
John M. Grohol, Psy.D., founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central, listed the top nine American regrets. Lost love or relationship choices were the number one regret, followed by family arguments. Education choices came in third, with career choices right behind. Money and
spending hit number five, and the final four were parenting roles, bad health habits, friend issues, and spirituality.
I challenge you to examine your top five regrets. Write them down. As you look at each one, remember your age and life’s situation at the time. Then, forgive yourself. Remember, you’re human, and mistakes are inevitable. When I struggle to practice self-kindness, I say, “If I were perfect, nobody would like me.”
Regrets have a purpose if we learn from them and if they help us make better choices. Past decisions need not be the albatross on our back; they are to remind us that we can choose other options.
Do-overs or erasing past embarrassing events are not possible. Stop hating yourself for what you did or said. If you contributed to irreplaceable damage, own it, and sincerely say, “I’m sorry.” Start 2020 with a lighter load and a renewed sense of optimism.
Making peace with major regrets clears the path for you to move forward; toward the person you are.
Until the next time: Live while you live
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