How To: Not Regret Regret

“No Regerts,” reads a famous tattoo that is a favorite of mine. I never get board of irony (or puns, for that matter). It’s natural when looking over the past to feel regret, or thinking that you might have done something differently. This feeling in itself is not productive at all!

However,  I believe that there is a use for every emotion. Often, emotions can reveal our inner thoughts and how we live our lives. For example, one should experience grief when it strikes. However, it is not healthy to wallow in this after a certain point. It’s not as though you keep feeling it until you’ve used it all up and it goes away–in this case, you emotions are controlling you, rather than you being a master of your emotions. Once you have given yourself time to grieve, for example, you can start to ask yourself why you feel these things and what they mean in the grander scheme of things. Perhaps besides the obvious loss of a presence in your life, it also shows how humans all to often are resistant to change, although we know it comes.

So when we feel regret, what does it mean? It means that we felt we had unfulfilled potential. We feel as though we wanted something, not gotten it, and it is no longer in our grasp because it is in the past.

Regret is one of those emotions that you really don’t need to spend time on, though, because once you know what it indicates, the best course of action is simply to change your current behavior to reduce the likelihood of experiencing that particular regret again the in the future.

To constructively deal with regret, here are a few simple steps:

  1. Name the regret. Name the specific actions, or events that you regret. Only then can you put them into similar, more general groups. This makes it much more accurate.
  2. Why did you regret that? Did you feel like you didn’t live up to your potential, did an action have a detrimental effect, did you do something, or not do something? Write that down.
  3. Distill a lesson out of this. I personally think that it’s useful to have a little snippet of what you learned that is catchy, just so that it’s easy to remember and on the forefront of your mind. Changing behaviors is not easy, and in the beginning, it will take more effort than is probably comfortable for you to change a behavior that led to the regret. This can be made easier by an easy to digest sentence or phrase.
  4. Think of something concrete that you can change right this second. Yes, right this second! And then do it—right now! This will ‘break the seal’ so to speak and get you over that hump of procrastination of change, and catapult you into a whole series of actions you can subsequently take to alter your behavior.

You see, regret is not something that is just a feeling that you need to get rid of. It’s one of the most useful emotions in telling us where we need to make changes in our lives to continue growing into the people that we are!

Good luck, and hoping that you embody “No Regerts!”

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