“It’s easy to be wise after the event.” ~  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

If I had a crystal ball, I certainly wouldn’t have gotten married for the first time at the age of 20, and I would have left the marriage sooner than I ultimately did.  

The thing is, I don’t believe in beating ourselves up over past behaviors.  What I do believe in is figuring out what we’re meant to learn.  Easier said than done, of course.  But not impossible.  

Did you know that having regrets can wreck your health?  Not just emotionally, but physically as well.  Medical experts and mental health professionals concluded long ago that holding onto regrets will affect your immune system which, in the age of Covid, is obviously dangerous.  Unresolved regret often manifests into depression and anxiety, and I don’t have to tell you that’s not good.  

I’m not a therapist.  What I am, however, is an optimist.  (Thanks, Dad!)

If you are wallowing in regret, if your past actions are impeding on your present happiness, would you be willing to try a couple of things?

First, I suggest you start this journey by actually making a list of the things you regret.  I’m not talking about the banana split you ate last night, but rather, the choices you’ve made in the past that altered the trajectory of your life.  I predict that the list will be shorter than you think.

Then, shift your focus outward and to the future.  Probably, you can’t go back to college to get your Ph.D., but maybe you can take a class in wine tasting or ceramics at the community college.  Setting some new, doable goals helps with changing your perspective from yesterday to tomorrow.  

But what if you’re unable to reconcile the regret?  I’ve heard terribly sad stories about suicide, drug overdoses, and words said in anger that cannot be taken back.  These are complex emotional issues that may never be resolved, and certainly not by making a list or taking a class.  To the extent you may feel guilt or regret over your part in a past tragedy whether by your action or by your inaction, it is probably time for you to exchange your negative self-talk with some gentle compassion.  Understand that bad things happen and, unless you’re a serial killer, they happen without your ill-intent.  Imagine that you’re consoling a friend whose daughter died of a drug overdose and she’s blaming herself for not seeing the signs.  Would you beat her up, or would you offer her your sympathy and support?  If you can do that for someone else, you can certainly do that for yourself.  And you can also trust that you’ve learned enough to do better.

As much as we cannot predict the future, we also cannot change the past.  What we can do, however, is move forward with positivity and optimism. 

How do you deal with your own regrets? Please comment and share.