“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
I was sitting here reflecting, as most writers and those of us who think too much when life gets to be too much do and I came across this tangle of regrets. The moments I just lay in bed and pull the covers up over my head in hopes that reality isn’t really real. The moments when I have a thought of a mistake and wonder – what in the hell was I thinking? How did I end up HERE?
Then of course, as one regret sneaks up on me quietly, the rest continue to show up. How many mistakes could I have really made in the last 20 years? Was it just one or two wrong decisions? Or has it been dozens? How do I cope with those and tuck them away? Or should I just sew them into my days and assume the position, wearing them with a sort of pride?
I’ve managed to live with them. Some are newer than others. Some are created at the reading of what others say or think. None of us is impervious to criticism. But it’s not always the direct criticism. It’s the things we see being tossed around by those we look to for a word from time to time.
Moving forward is really the key. But here are the five ways I’ve gotten better at moving past regret quicker in the last year:
Deal with the likely fact you’ll have a couple over your lifetime.
I rarely meet people who don’t have any regrets. When I do, usually they’re speaking from a place that they no longer regret something. They’ve moved on. I also have lost all pride in asking people how they managed to move past something – especially when they’ve been open about what they regret, how they have managed to live life after and how they used it. For the most part, if you’re breathing, you’ll regret one or two things. It’s ok. It just means you’ve been living, you’ve taken chances and hopefully working towards a better life.
Learning to forgive yourself for ‘stupid’ mistakes or ‘bad’ decisions.
Regret and unforgiveness go hand in hand. I’ve found when I can look at myself in a moment of decision and think about how I was thinking and then figure out why I made the decision, I realize sometimes I just wasn’t equipped to handle some of the things I’ve come up against. Given a few choices of how to fix something, we often choose what fixes things right now – not what mitigates damage in the future. As we mature, we tend to make better long-term decisions. I know now, at 17, 21, 25, 32, etc there is only so much you know. Forgiving ourselves helps us not to hold onto it.
Making actual moves to improve your life.
This can appear in many forms. An actual move, a new job, starting a volunteer project or working in a hobby you’re passionate about. Closing the gaps on the things left undone. Getting to a place where we don’t have to ‘look back’ all the time and have a space to enjoy the now and plan for the future is key. When I started writing, when I began to do what I’m good at and share, it changed everything for me. This is an important step. It’s not about talking about things all the time, it’s about taking action. Movement. You know, the “Git up, Git Out” theory as brought to us by the good brothers OutKast.
Regret can be used as a learning tool.
I keep saying this, but I started writing 1) because I had a passion and 2) I felt like I had things others could learn from. Funny enough, when I go back and read some of these posts, I find actual gems. Guess what? There’s beauty in ashes. We have to learn to build from mistakes. Absolutely no one is perfect. It doesn’t give us the license to be awful human beings, but it does give us a point of where we may need to improve. Improve more and enough of your already wonderful self and next thing you know? The sting of regret isn’t as bad as maybe it was on the realization on day zero.
I come back to this often. Mostly because I know and understand the benefits of it. If you realize you can’t deal with the guilt, the regret and aren’t able to manage it, the important thing is to find someone else to talk to. Sometimes it’s your family and friends, but sometimes you need a professional who can hear the story from a new angle. It may even take you a while to open up to find the right person. Maybe you’re not comfortable with talking to anyone and admitting either 1) your mistakes or 2) that you’re having trouble dealing with them. Listen, you absolutely have nothing to be ashamed of when you’re asking for help. If your arm was broken in three places wouldn’t you go and have it reset? Your answer needs to be yes. My point is, our mind and emotions are just as important as any other limb or organ we have checked. Not to mention, with the rate so many Blacks are suffering and going untreated, I believe it’s time we ask for help when things seem to be too much. I’ve been… so there, it can’t be that bad can it?
John Wooden says, “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.” I have to agree with him on this one. The point is regret can hold you captive. Don’t let it. Start the year in expectation and hope.
I’m curious – how have you manged to move past regret?