Legendary UCLA College Basketball Coach and student of life, John Wooden, once said, “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today” which is perfect advice if you’re living with regret.
Right off the top of my head, I can think of about a half-a-dozen major events that have happened in my life I truly regret.
There are way more small regrets than these but the way my divorce from my first wife ended…
–How poorly I dealt with money in the first part of my life…
–The fact that I never got a college degree…
–The way my relationship ended with the old friend my son was named after…
And a couple of other events too private and too painful to mention are the biggies.
These are circumstances I wish had been different but weren’t.
Things I’ve done to other people that caused irreparable damage—things I may never forgive myself for.
Decisions I’ve made that altered my life and the lives of others forever.
There were also conversations I had (and didn’t have) I wish were somehow handled differently.
Others have hurt me to my core as well as situations I had no control over that I wished had turned out differently.
Regrets can be painful, hard to live with and can keep us stuck, frozen and from living our best life if we allow them to.
Regrets are simply a part of life and if you’re willing to stop just for a moment and truly think about it, you’ve probably had regrets in your life too.
We’ve all had them.
Learning how to move forward from regret to create relationships that matter and a life you love is one of the most important things you’ll ever learn.
Here are a few suggestions worth considering if regret is eating away inside you…
1. Your Best Thinking Got You Here
No matter how a decision or a situation turned out, no matter how painful it was or how much you wish something had been different…
It’s wise to understand that we all ALWAYS make the best decision possible in any given situation based on our best thinking in the moment.
That’s right, everything we say, do and how we act or react always makes perfect sense to us in the moment.
Knowing this, helps us understand that all of us always did the best we did could even if we came to regret it later.
This doesn’t excuse irresponsible, reckless or hurtful behavior in ourselves or others. But it does help us to understand it.
2. Stop Arguing With Reality
Regrets are a waste of time.
New possibilities open up when you see that everything turned out exactly the way it should have. We know this because events always turn out how they turn out.
If you are spending any time wishing, hoping, praying about or regretting anything from the past, you are simply arguing with reality.
This will get you nowhere. The past is past.
3. Don’t Allow Your Imagination to Run Wild
If you’re living with regrets about a situation, you’re living in the land of “what if…” from a totally imagined place where you can’t know what might have been.
It’s the unknown.
No one can know what might have been if things had turned out differently. Anything you think could have or would have happened is totally made up by our imaginations.
4. Look to the “Right” Side of “What If…”
If you are living with regret, you can’t enjoy or appreciate the present moment or the present situation.
For example, it’s really hard to truly open your heart, be present and open to your beloved if you are still spending time wondering about “what if…” about someone else.
It’s really hard to perform your best at work if you’re frequently thinking about the job or the career that got away–or the one you REALLY want.
And it’s really hard to truly love your children if you’re spending any time at all wishing they were somehow different or had made different choices in life.
You always get the best answers to life’s questions when they’re examined from the positive side of “what if…” instead of the regretful side.
So, the question remains, how do you let go of regret?
How do you heal it?
How do you keep the regret of a painful past from robbing you of the gift of the present moment and the possibilities of a future not yet born?
The short answer is by NOT focusing on it.
By not living in the past and by living in the present moment with peace, love and understanding while our future unfolds perfectly moment by moment.
Maybe the best advice is from the writer Akiroq Brost who once said, “Don’t beat yourself up for what you couldn’t do, or didn’t do. Just do the best you can now, now, and now.”
As I see it, the important part is the “Now, Now, Now”
That’s where we live a happy life.