I don’t get it when people say they don’t have regrets. I have quite a few. I have regretted many of my reactions and actions in many situations, I regret my financial indiscipline, regret passing judgment on people without knowing all the facts, regret actions that I took when I was young and immature. So, I don’t quite get it when people say they have no regrets, when they say that they will do things the same way if given another chance. To me, having no regrets implies perfection. It means that we have scored right in all areas in life. That everything has worked out as we planned or even better. It’s different from living life without regrets. That of course, I try to do by living in the moment, doing the best I can in every situation especially where it concerns people because I may not have another chance.
We are not perfect and we will make mistakes no matter our age, status and maturity. We will read people and situations wrongly, offend others consciously and unconsciously. The problem is when we can’t let go of our regrets, when they creep upon us like a stranger and follow us all around like our shadows. When we question our today in the light of our past mistakes and refuse to enjoy today’s blessings because of yesterday’s choices.
I was speaking with someone some few weeks back and she was lamenting seriously about her career, how she wished she had worked in a more professional organization, how she woke up one morning, looked at the stranger sleeping by her side and knew her marriage was a mistake as she couldn’t recognize both herself and the man she had gotten married to. She was angry about her financial state and how she had frittered away her inheritance and opportunities without thinking of the future, the choices she had made concerning her children and how she couldn’t give them the lifestyle she desired for them. She spoke with so much sorrow that I couldn’t help but feel for her because although she had some reasons to justify her conclusions, things were not as bad as she had painted them to be.
You see this Life, it’s full of good and bad and we can’t have good all the time. I guess we can understand that if it is something that we can’t do anything about but when it is as a result of the choices we have made for ourselves we tend to feel the ache of regret more severely.
I told the person to ask herself, when she made the decisions she made, did she choose based on what she thought was the best course available to her at the time, if she sought advice and thought through her choice before making it? She said yes she did and I asked her why she was berating herself for making what at the time was the best decision to make. I asked her why she was judging her younger, immature self based on the information that is now available to the older and much improved version of herself?
I asked her to practice self compassion by absolving herself of the guilt that she was torturing herself with and to be kind to herself as she would be to a friend in a similar situation and how she will help her friend to see the good that was to be found in her situation.e.g even though her husband was laid back and not ambitious, he did not stop her from pursuing her own dreams and was even supportive of them.
I asked if she had learned lessons from the decision that had brought her so much pain and what she was doing to ensure that she didn’t make such negative impactful decisions in the now and the future.
I told her to find her sweet spot in that situation and do the things that will make the consequences of her actions easier to bear. I told her to eliminate the vocabulary of regret, the words- If only I had or hadn’t, why did I and to focus on the words – what next, what good can come out or has come out of this.
I told her that most times, we mistakenly assume that things will have worked out better if we had done or not done the things we regret but the truth is that they may have worked out worse than we think they would have, because every decision brings with it variables which may not pan out as we think so she should focus on not only what could have been better but also on the worst case scenario.
I told her that even if she made her mistakes willfully with all the available knowledge at that time showing it was wrong she should learn to forgive herself for acting against her own best interests and that if her regret involved other people she may consider making amends and where it might not be appropriate or even possible to reach out she should look for someone else to pass unto them what she should have done in the first place.
I asked her to be objective about what she had regrets over. Was she the only person that contributed to the present state of affairs and if not to consider if she was carrying the burdens of others and assuming them as her own.
I asked her if there is anything she could do now that would make a difference in how she thinks and feel about a future situation that she may regret and if so to put into action all that could forestall a regretful situation.
We all have regrets and sometimes the most haunting regrets stem from the things we didn’t do more than the things we did. The key is to acknowledge that we are human not perfect and that things may never work out the way we planned or envisaged.
Today let go of what holds you back, cut the ties of guilt and regret and live in the moment.
Have a pleasant holiday.