Want to know how to banish regret from your life?
Regret is an awful, debilitating feeling that produces nothing worthwhile. It keeps you stuck in the past and causes you to feel bad about yourself without giving you any sense of hope or freedom from it.
I think that most of us have things that we regret – things that, in hindsight, we would have liked to have done differently : mistakes we made knowingly or unknowingly, unwise decisions or pathways we took and things we neglected to do. I think it’s good to reflect on how we have done things so that we can learn lessons from our mistakes, but if we dwell on those things and spend time staying in regret, we’ll only feel hopeless and won’t actually move forward. We also won’t do anything differently in our present or future!
The dictionary definition for regret is: a feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act, loss or disappointment.
So remaining in regret means literally holding onto feelings of sorrow or remorse, with the result that we will just feel low, with no way out.
Recently I read a brilliant piece on this by Dr Norman Vincent Peale, in his book, ‘Confidence‘, who counseled someone with a lot of regret. 2 words he recognised that are red flags that will tell you that you’re getting stuck in regret are this:
‘If only...’. ‘If only I didn’t do [that thing you did]’, ‘If only I did [that thing you didn’t do enough of or neglected to do at all]’ ‘If only he or she…’ ‘If only we…’. You get the picture I’m sure.
There’s 3 more words which I see as red flags of regret too – and they are :
I WISH I
If you find yourself constantly thinking (or saying), ‘I wish that I had…’ or ‘I wish I knew this 5 years ago…’, ‘I wish I had done this…’, then you’ve fallen prey to regret.
Good news is, you can change your internal chatter! In his book ‘Confidence‘, Peale came up with 2 words that will banish that regret from your life.
Simply replace ‘If only…’ with ‘Next time..’
‘Next time I will [do that thing you didn’t do]’, ‘Next time I will [not do that thing you did do]..’, ‘Next time we can…’ and ‘Next time he or she can…’. Again, you get the idea!
Isn’t that clever?
You’ve possibly heard of the concept ‘Failing forward’. This is failing forward in action. Every mistake or wrong decision you make is a chance to fail forward. We actually learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes, because we tend to think about them more. We could probably learn from our successes if we reflected on what brought them, but failure tends to make us really stop and think, which is a good thing. To take the lesson in every failure and mess-up is to learn, grow and move toward success ‘next time.’
So, the next time (can’t believe I said that!) you make a mistake, may you continue to fail forward, successfully.