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Some Simple Steps to Overcome Regrets – By Bev James


We often hear people claim that they “don’t believe in having regrets”. Yet, whether they care to admit it or not, absolutely everyone has to deal with regrets at various points in their lives. Regrets come in an infinite number of shapes and sizes, from minor ones, like making an error at work, to big, life-changing regrets - such as not taking a job, or moving somewhere new, or ending a relationship.

When things don’t work out or go catastrophically wrong because of our own decisions, actions, or lack thereof, regret is an instinctive, human reaction – and often a painful one to endure. For a short period however, it’s actually pretty useful. Regret is a necessary and important tool for personal growth, because it teaches us to avoid the same mistakes in the future. Long-term however, regrets can eat away at us – to the point of anxiety, depression, and obsession.

When regrets become that severe, they’re often accompanied with intense feelings of loss, grief, denial, remorse, or sorrow. At worst, those regrets can hinder our ability to be happy in the present, because our focus is fixed so firmly on the past. So, it’s vital to move on from them and channel that energy into the future instead. 

But how do we go about that?

  • Identify and understand: Some people regret things they’ve done; others regret things they haven’t done. Whether your regret is rooted in a relationship, your job, a social interaction, or anything else, identify what exactly it is you regret, and the real consequences. It often helps if you write it down, so you can view it more objectively. Will those consequences last forever? Is all lost? Can the situation be repaired in some way? Focus on the regret, then focus on accepting it. While it may not feel like it, this is actually a positive step.
  • Don’t sabotage your future: Most situations are salvageable and can be improved with the right mindset. It also gives you an opportunity to better yourself as a person. It’s important to see the things you’re regretting as traversable obstacles along your path, rather than blockades that halt you altogether.
  • Forgive yourself: When you write your regrets down, be sure to record the reasons why you did things the way you did. Humans are fallible creatures. We’ve all made bad decisions, we’ve all conducted ourselves poorly, and we’ve all been our own worst enemy – it’s all an important part of the journey. Sometimes we just make completely innocent mistakes. Ask yourself why, and you’ll realise your intentions weren’t to end up feeling this way. The fact you’re regretting it shows that you’ve already grown. There’s a good chance you’ve been punishing yourself for a while, but doing that for too long is unproductive. Even prison sentences have release dates, so set your mind free within the next hour, and forgive yourself.
  • Letting go: Letting go of regrets isn’t always easy. But one way of aiding it is with, what’s known to some as, a ‘burning ritual’. When you’re ready, take the paper where you’ve written down your regrets to a quiet, outdoor space, and burn it. Literally, set fire to it. While this exercise might seem a little dramatic, watching your regrets go up in flames can be extremely cathartic. Creating a visual representation of ‘letting go’ marks the event in a much more powerful, final, and memorable way.
  • Embrace growth: Even when you think you’ve let go, you might still find yourself pondering those things you regret from time to time – even several years later. However, as opposed to focusing on those events and inviting the self-punishing thoughts back in, focus on the lessons you learned instead. Any form of personal growth should be embraced, especially if it’s self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.

Words to go by

Regrets are a perfectly normal part of being human, and the more you live the more you’ll experience them. As the saying goes: “Those who don’t make mistakes, don’t make anything”. Just don’t give your regrets the chance to become all-consuming. If used productively, you’ll be a better, more positive person for experiencing them.

If you feel that Coaching could be a potential full or part time opportunity for you, or if you would just like to know a little more about what Coaching is and how it can benefit you and the lives of others, please contact our Specialist Course Advisor, Jamil on 0208 996 4830 or email: Jamil@the-coaching-academy.com

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