Who among us can say they have lived a life without ANY regrets?
I would be suspicious of anyone who says they do not have at least a few regrets to their name (if they are passed a certain age that is).
Regret is an emotional state I wish on no one. Yet regrets are inevitable in life as we are all fallible human beings who make mistakes.
Thus maybe the best we can hope for in life is to have the right regrets.
We are in the full swing of the holiday season. The holidays are a time of retrospection. If one struggles with regret, this time of year, it is sure to come to the surface.
Regret is common. Whether we acknowledge our regrets, to ourselves or others, is a separate issue.
Every one of us make mistakes in life. We ALL veer off course, make blunders, and fail. It’s is human nature.
Regret is a negative state that entails blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made.
Regret can be beneficial. It can push you to take corrective action–to attempt to right a past wrong. But some times there is no making right certain actions previously taken….and if that is the case you are likely to have chronic stress and ruminate over the past. It is hard to move on when you cannot correct the mistakes of the past. In life, we don’t always get do-overs. This feeling of powerlessness and helplessness to change the past is one of the most horrendous aspects of regret.
We may regret how certain relationships unfolded. Most likely we will feel regret if our actions are to blame. Whether through not making the effort to stay in touch or from burning bridges. Inaction and undesirable action can both lead to feelings of regret.
Many of our chosen behaviors can lead to regret. Telling lies. Taking your loved ones for granted. Damaging a work relationship by blurting out something in the heat of the moment. Not following through on a promise to a client. Acting out our anger. Putting pride before those we care for. Putting work before family. Putting our kids before our marriage. Perhaps we deny others happiness. Or deny ourselves happiness. We may act against, not for other people. All sources of great regret later in life.
The thing is you see you reap what you sow. We all have the freedom to choose but we are not free from the consequences of those choices. This includes the emotional consequences of our choices.
Often times in counseling, I see people firsthand, face up to the emotional consequences of how they choose to live their life.
Regret comes from how we choose to live our life. Choices we made. Behaviors we executed. Or failed to execute. Regret is a painful emotion to face.
Here is a great article on the difference between regret vs. remorse.
Our regrets may arise from living unconsciously. We forget to live in the moment. We follow the goals set forth for us by our parents, society, anyone BUT us. We live a life pretending to be someone we are not. We do not stand up for ourselves or others. We disregard our health and wellness. We hold ourselves back. We refuse to let go. We resist change getting ourselves stuck while the rest of the world moves on.
Sadly as people we are not very good at predicting what will bring us most happiness in the future. We are not able to accurately think about our future selves (hence why so many people do not plan for retirement or watch their weight/monitor their health–because their future selves do not seem REAL to them).
In Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness, Gilbert shows how terrible we are at predicting what makes us happy. If you don’t listen to your own deepest values, one day you’ll regret having taken life too seriously and worrying too much about what others think. You will regret living a life that was not true to who you are.
Regret arises when we engage in forms of self-sabotage.
How do we self-sabotage? Procrastination. Acting out our anger. Self-injury. Comfort eating. Avoiding the doctor. Inaction. Self-medicating. The list goes on and on.
Just because we are adult does not mean our dreams just go away. Yes, we get older and our priorities and responsibilities change, but we still have things we want to be and goals we want to fulfill. We all have an idealized version of our self in our mind, and while we will never be able to achieve every goal we imagine, we can’t even begin to approach our ideal self without giving it a try.
So…what does YOUR ideal life look like?
If you had a second chance at life, what would you do differently?
It is never too late.
So take a moment to reflect.
What goals have you never been able to pull the trigger on? What dreams have you started to pursue only to quit? People are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.
What people do you regret losing touch with? What bridges did you burn that you regret? People are amazingly forgiving, especially if you take all of the right steps, to rectify such behavior.
Counseling can be a helpful avenue to pursue to help you or someone you know cope with feelings of regret. When people spend years fixating on a regrettable choice they often need professional help to move past it, and seeking counseling can help people talk through, understand, and move beyond regret.
It is time to take responsibility for your own life and your own happiness. All the often we merely exist instead of live. We all have hopes, dreams, and things we’ve always wanted to do in life, but we put them off until “tomorrow.” And tomorrow often never comes. Everyone experiences challenges, but we all have choices. It is up to you to get the ball rolling. Or live with regret. The choice is yours.
Ask yourself. Are you LIVING or merely EXISTING?
To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):
Anew Counseling Services LLC
617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649