“Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today and you make your tomorrow.” – L. Ron Hubbard
What if you could travel back in time?
You’d probably do a lot of things differently, right?
You’d reverse the mistakes you made, resolve the arguments you regretted, and stand up for the choices you now realize matter more than careers or bank balances.
And you’d take the chances you let slip through your fumbling fingers.
Oh boy, guilt and shame are a mean double act. They berate you over and over for the same mistakes, for actions you did and didn’t take.
That negative cycle leaves you forever trapped in that time and in that situation.
I know. I lived a half-life of guilt and shame for years. Until I realized that regret is a choice and a habit.
Life can unfold so much better from where you are right now if you choose differently and commit to a new habit. The habit of living life without regret.
You can break the corrosive cycle of regret and move on.
You can create that life you dream of right now — without a time machine.
21 Ways to Stop Regretting the Life You Didn’t Have
1. Stop thinking it’s too late.
It’s never too late to atone for past mistakes. Even if the person you believe you wronged has passed away, there is something you can do. For instance if they loved animals, you could make a donation in their memory to an animal charity.
2.Separate reality from fiction.
Most people have a selective memory and tend to see the past through a false filter, even if unintentionally. You may believe that you were at fault, but in reality it may have been the best you could do in the circumstances or with the knowledge you had available at the time.
3. Quit asking the wrong question.
Stop Asking “What if ? What if I had or hadn’t done this or that?” Ask instead “ What if I carry on like this? I’ll end up wasting my life and that will add another regret on top of the original one. Am I really prepared to go on like this?”
4. Own up to your mistake.
If you genuinely messed up, then apologize. And understand you’re apologizing for you. No matter how long ago it was, it will help ‘close’ the episode in your mind, allowing you to move on.
5. Divorce your regret.
Treat your regret as a separate entity with which you have irreconcilable differences. Officially end the relationship and start over.
6. Stop missing out on the present.
Regret keeps you endlessly locked in the past, re-living past events in your own personal world of painful memories. Realize how much you are missing out and remember “ Life is in you today and you make your tomorrow”.
7. Atone for your past failings in the present.
Maybe you regret being mean with money when you were younger. Maybe you refused to help others. Put this right now by generously giving your time and/or money to charitable causes.
8. Take the focus off yourself.
If you regret not having had the opportunity to do something worthwhile yourself, then make sure someone else has that opportunity now. Couldn’t afford to go to college or flunked out? Then sponsor someone through college here or abroad and give them the opportunities you never had.
9. Counter your regretful thoughts.
Don’t let regret get the better of you. Rebuff any regretful thoughts with a powerful comeback: “That was another time, another place. I’m not that person any more”.
10. Understand you’ve changed.
This follows on from the last point. You really aren’t the same person. You have grown and learned from your experiences. What you did then, you wouldn’t do now.
11. Live in the here and now.
Sometimes the best approach is to ignore regretful thoughts and throw yourself into the present. Make a great life in the here and now and you may find those regretful thoughts naturally fade.
12.Seek the wisdom of others.
Many people have been in the same situation as you. Use their wisdom to help you. Start by finding great quotes like the one at the top of this article.
13.Concentrate on the big picture.
Whatever you did or did not do probably isn’t that big a deal in the whole world perspective. “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.” – Daniel Kahneman
14. Let compassion help you move on.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion” – Dalai Lama. Equally if you want to forget your regret, concentrate on helping others and you’ll soon forget your own worries.
15. Create a mission statement.
Putting your thoughts down in writing can be the impetus you need. Detail your exact regret and what you intend to do to banish it. Read it often until you have rid yourself of your regret.
16. Move on for the sake of others.
If you have ever known someone consumed with regret and trapped in the past, you’ll know how difficult it can be for those around them. Don’t let that someone be you.
17. Reinvent yourself.
Sometimes the only effective course of action if you can’t kill the regret is to kill yourself. Not literally, but symbolically. Start over in a new town, or country if needs be. Change career, or even your name if it helps (I know several people who have changed their names and re-invented themselves).
18. Stop repeating the same mistake.
The trouble with regret is that while your spending your time regretting a past mistake, you are likely to go and make that same mistake again. If you regret getting passed over for a promotion, make sure the next time the opportunity arises you are well prepared and can stop history repeating itself.
19. Put your mistakes in perspective.
Okay, so you messed up? You know, the only people who don’t mess up are in the graveyard. It’s as much a part of being human as breathing or loving.
20. Make a bonfire of your regret.
I’m not usually big on symbolic actions but I’ve actually done this and it worked for me. Write out your regret in detail and then set light to it. Watch your regret spiral into the sky and set you free. Gone. If you have any items that are associated with the regret, go for it and burn them as well – just don’t burn the house down.
21. Decide you’ve served your sentence.
Enough is enough. In these enlightened times even criminals are given a second chance. And to paraphrase Shakespeare : To err is human, to forgive yourself – divine.
Start Moving On Today
Regret has held your life to ransom for too long. But you could change that for good.
Picture being free from the pain of regret. Imagine it gone, forever.
Imagine how peaceful you’d feel. How alive you’d be.
That picture can be your reality if you let your past be just that.
Defeating regret takes time and patience. Try the strategies above that speak to you, one or a few at a time.
Realize you’ve more than paid the penalty for whatever you did or didn’t do.
Move on, make peace with yourself, and make regret a thing of the past.
Laura Tong is on a mission to help you let go of the past and find happiness. Download her free cheat sheet:5 Ways To Say No Without Offending Anyone (Even If You Hate Conflict)