How to Deal with Regret

The author Victoria Holt once stated: “Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.” Regret is one of those emotions that make us human. It could be said that someone who doesn’t feel regret for his actions, isn’t truly able to feel empathy. But similar to other emotions, such as worry or remorse, regret can become a hindrance to our ability to move forward with our lives. Many of our emotions and thoughts are detrimental to our emotional well-being by trapping us in the past and preventing us from enjoying the benefits that come from living in the present moment. Regret can be particularly damaging because it deals with something that cannot be undone and appears practically impossible to overcome. By comparison, remorse can be dealt with by apologizing and seeking forgiveness from others or from oneself. Worry can be dealt with by preparing for and taking steps to prevent whatever you are worrying about, or by learning to let go and accept what you cannot change. But how do you effectively deal with regret?

First, realize that regret is a wasteful emotion. It causes you to linger on what could have, should have or might have been. It makes you punish yourself for something that is over and done with and cannot be undone. When you experience regret, you trap yourself in the past and prevent yourself from enjoying and benefiting from the present. Nothing good comes from it.

Next, decide to forgive and forget. Regret stems from an action or decision that we made. One of the most difficult people to forgive sometimes is yourself. Release any negative feelings that you are harboring about yourself and about the past. Love yourself enough to leave the past where it belongs and instead focus on your present situation. Determine to make the best of what you have today and of what lies ahead. Realize that this is what will heal you, and will make it possible to eliminate any regret that is currently holding you back from achieving happiness.

Several years ago, I made a career related decision that I was very confident about at the time. Unfortunately, that decision led me to be unemployed for one year. When I finally found a job, it was for less money and at a company with serious personality problems in upper management. Although I was unhappy, I stayed at that job for almost two years in order to not look like a job hopper. During that almost three year period, I experienced many days where I seriously questioned my original decision, including several days where my questioning actually led to regret. It goes without saying that I caused myself a lot of unnecessary grief on those days. However, my next job turned out to be the most interesting, satisfying and rewarding job I have ever had. If I had not made that original decision which led to those three years of uncertainty, I would have never found that job. As Victoria Holt stated, it turned out the decision was good and the results were wonderful.

I now find myself once again in a similar situation. I am at a career crossroads due to a decision I made consciously. I don’t know where this decision will lead me; I have several possibilities lying ahead of me. Currently the future is uncertain and a little scary for a variety of reasons. But I have learned from experience to not question, not fret, and definitely not regret my choices. While part of me is apprehensive, another part of me is excited about what opportunities may be waiting for me just around the corner. Why regret a situation which may turn out to lead to one of the most wonderful experiences of my life?

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