As we grow older, we tend to look back at some of the choices we have made and paths we have taken. The tendency is to focus more on the decisions which went wrong. This is where there is a danger that we can journey down a river of regrets rather than focus on the things that went right. A “What-if” analysis of the past is good up to a point to help us analyse what went wrong with a decision and what are the learnings that we can take forward. But there is also the danger of this spiralling down an “if only” track which can cause sadness and frustration.
There are times when something triggers memories of decisions which have led to unsuccessful ventures. I have failed many times in my life. Every failure is an outcome of decisions I made. When I think about them, there is an element of regret – time and money wasted, and in some cases relationships soured. The past can be a dangerous room to enter because it has many doors which can take one deeper into a mental morass. And it is therefore important to stop the “regret pathway” quickly – before it takes over the mind. It is important to keep in mind the present and focus on the future – think about what one can do next, rather than ponder on the failures and mistakes of the past.
Regret, although a natural human emotion, can become detrimental to one’s well-being when it dominates our thoughts and prevents us from moving forward. It is essential to recognise that we all make mistakes and experience failures. These are opportunities to learn from and grow, rather than chains that hold us back.
Jelena Kecmanovic writes: “A typical feature of regret is self-blame over making the ‘wrong’ choice, whether it was doing something that you now believe you shouldn’t have done, or not doing something that you now think you should have. Some regrets are mild and fleeting and, as such, do not cause much heartache. But it’s possible to be haunted by regret – consumed by self-reproach, sadness, and a sense of loss over what you could have had.”
Shannon Thomas adds: “Regret stems from a deep, soul-level disappointment that things haven’t worked out because of something you said or did…Learning how to deal with regret is about having to step back and realize that you did what you did with the information you had at that time.”
To avoid being consumed by regret, we must adopt a proactive mindset, focusing on actions we can take to improve our current situation, and future prospects. Surrounding ourselves with positive influences and engaging in activities that promote growth and development can also help counter the negative effects of regret. It is also helpful to practice gratitude for the experiences we have had, both positive and negative. Acknowledging and appreciating the lessons learned from these situations can help shift our perspective from one of regret to one of appreciation. By doing so, we can gradually transform regret into wisdom and resilience, empowering us to face new challenges with confidence.
While regret is a natural response to past mistakes and failures, it is crucial not to let it overwhelm our thoughts and dictate our lives. At no stage must we let the “regret pathway” take over. A more positive and resilient mindset is what we need. Embracing this attitude allows us to move beyond our past and embrace the potential that lies ahead.