Getting Over Regret
If you are anything like me or many of my clients, you have surely experienced the pain and suffering that accompanies regret. You have probably wondered to yourself, "how do I get past this and move forward without always feeling bad about myself or guilty for decisions I can't undo?" I can't even tell you how common this phenomenon really is. It is so common that I have had to give it many hours of reflection to figure out the key to "getting over" regret.
If you can imagine being a true fortune teller for a moment, one who can accurately see into the future and know exactly what will happen with each and every decision in life. Wow, what a concept! A true fortune teller would know exactly when and how to make the best decision for the best possible outcome, right? To be honest, that is exactly what it would take to be able to always make the right and best decision in any moment of your life. I am guessing you wouldn't categorize yourself as a person who knows the future?
That being said, regret is really about being mad at ourselves for not being able to foretell the future. All decisions are made in a context, meaning they are made at a particular point in time and space with a particular set of facts and knowledge at that moment. Regret happens when we take a decision out of context and place it in our current life context. This would include what we know now and with the benefit of already knowing what happened after the decision was made. It is an unfair judgement on oneself for not knowing the future outcome of an event. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we feel the need to judge ourselves for what we didn't already know when a decision was made? It isn't fair, right? Right!
So let's at least be fair to ourselves. When struggling to cope with regret, it is critical to remember this one important fact. "I did the best I could knowing what I knew at that time and IF I knew then what I know now, I may have done it differently." Of course you would have, without a doubt, and any of us would. Simply put, we cannot tell the future, and with all the work I do with clients dealing with anxiety, I am extremely grateful we cannot. Can you imagine? We wouldn't want to walk out our door in the morning for fear we wouldn't be able to handle what is coming. There is a really good reason we are not meant to know the future. We can only do our very best with what we have at this point in the present moment.
The next time you are feeling regret, please remember to keep the event and subsequent decisions within the context of the moment in time they occurred. Remember that you did the best you could at that moment. Remember that you cannot know the future before it happens and that it isn't fair to judge your younger self based on knowledge of your older self. This is the way to move on from regret. Moving forward, I encourage you to practice it everyday as needed. I encourage you to feel the freedom it gives, along with a greater sense of peace in knowing you do try your best and each decision enables you to learn for the future.