counseling, goals, psychology, regrets, relationships, self-help

Regret: Are You Living or Merely Existing?

Who among us can say they have lived a life without ANY regrets?

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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.

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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.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stop-caretaking-the-borderline-or-narcissist/201507/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.

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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):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

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counseling, goals, psychology, self-help

December: A Time to Self-Reflect as Another Year Comes to an End

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At the end of each year, there is a great opportunity to reflect on yourself, your goals, your relationships, your career, and your health (both physical and mental).

December is an ideal time to take stock of how you feel you progressed the last twelve months. Perhaps to reflect on how you regressed (we are human after all).  Self-reflection is pivotal if you want to live your life by your own values, standards, and ambitions. It helps you build self-awareness. Our goals often become unrealized because we lack self-awareness. We live on auto-pilot. 

Self-reflection gives you the time to ask yourself the important questions. Without self-reflection it is easy to drift into a life of complacency. It is easy to become stagnant. People far too often take the path of least resistance. Just as you should review each day, week, and month, at the end of each year you should set aside time to review the year and reflect on how it unfolded. 

Are you happy with how your year turned out?

Are you happy with how your life has turned out?

December is a time of friends, fun, festivities, food, and family but most of all it’s a time of reflection and planning for the year ahead.

We all know January is notorious for short-lived resolutions. Yet in order to embrace the new, we must release the old. The old will block us from reaching our goals if we do not process through the past. The end of the year is an opportune time to think about what you accomplished, what you enjoyed, what you disliked, and what you want to improve upon in the new year. The new year is a great time to let go: let go of failed goals, past hurts, toxic people, your own negativity, and perpetual bad habits. Most importantly let go of things that are not meant for you: whether that may be goals that aren’t your own, certain relationships that bring you down, or your own self-defeating attitude. An important part of preparing for the New Year is to reflect on the past year—to release it—and to learn from it.…

If done right, it can also help you establish and achieve more meaningful goals.

I am a big believer in self-reflection to keep on track. As a therapist, I often reflect with my clients how they feel about the progression of their treatment and the counseling process. I am also a person who tries to make time to self-reflect on my own life. I aim to take time out of my schedule to ponder where I have been, where I am at presently, and where I would like to go. I reflect on what I am doing well, what I can do better, and am honest with myself about things I will never do well (the list is sadly longer than I care to admit 😉 ).

The end of the year is the perfect time to not just reflect on this past year, but to pay mind to where we are at in this stage of our life. Too often we are so caught up in our day-to-day lives, we fail to reflect on our journeys thus far.

Write out your thoughts and feelings. Do some journaling. Consider writing a letter—which can be a powerful self-development tool.  Consider writing a letter to people who hurt you–to get out the painful feelings and resentment (no, you do not actually send it). Process the pain of the past, take joy in the successes, and figure out how to forge ahead on the next chapter. 

Reflect upon what you did, how you felt, what you liked, what you didn’t and what you learned. What do you want to continue in the new year? What do you hope to change? Have you achieved any of your goals? Did you stumble on your pursuit of certain goals? What have you learned about yourself? About other people?

Consider making a list of all your goals for the next year, next 5 years, next 10 years, and a big picture life goal.

Grab a piece of paper and reflect on the following:

How did you grow this past year?

What’s not working in your life?

What is going well?

How is your attitude? Towards yourself and others?

Is your career heading in the right direction?

Are your finances where they need to be? Are you planning for the future?

Are you being the type of parent you would have wanted when you were growing up?

Are you being the type of person that you would want to spend time with?

Are you healthy? Physically? Mentally? Emotionally?

How are your relationships? With others? How about your relationship with yourself?

If your teenage self could see you now, what would he (or she) think?

What is one goal you have for EACH area of your life?

Have you traveled anywhere new?

Have you done ANYTHING to step outside your comfort zone?

Going forward, what kind of parent, sibling, professional, friend, partner (and other roles) do you want to be?

What do you want?

Self-reflection can be hard. It can be painful. But it can also be inspiring. It helps us to improve our lives and ensure we are living by our values.

Maybe this past year was awesome and full of joy. Maybe it was 12 months you’d rather forget. Either way a new year is upon us and it is up to you what you will make of it.

Give yourself the space and freedom to contemplate, to meditate, and to reflect on the past year.

It is time to start fresh. It is wild to me that a whole year has passed since the last one. They seem to go faster and faster with each passing year. We are all a year older. My questions for you: Are you a year wiser? Are you closer to reaching your goals? Are you willing to close the gap on your actual life vs. your ideal life?

Counseling can be a great place to start.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

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