Regret is a pretty rotten feeling. The saddest phrase in the world is “if only.” Nobody wants to live a life filled with regrets.
Regret hurts. Pangs of regret can be overwhelming. Most often, the things we regret are things we didn’t do, rather than things we did do. We feel bitter for not doing something we wish we’d done. We grieve for not saying something we should have said. We lament neglecting to do things we knew would improve our health and sense of well-being.
But you can make changes that will reduce the length of your list of regrets. You can connect to your true inner self, muster your courage, and summon initiative so at the end of every day you can honestly say you lived it out with minimal regrets. Here are five proven techniques you can employ to diminish the amount of regret in your life.
- Be courageous.
It’s not always easy to say “yes” to an opportunity, or take a risk outside your comfort zone. What if you trip up? What if it’s a big mistake?
Both things are possible, but two things are certain: you will grow simply by accepting the challenge. And choosing to shirk the challenge and stay where you’re at will certainly lead to stagnation.
Nelson Mandela knew that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. He said, “The brave one is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers it.”
If you can summon the courage, you can reshape your life and live with few, if any, regrets. Bravery is required to stand up and face your regrets. But you are capable of summoning enough courage to do it!
- Tell the truth.
As we all know, lying is a real pain in the you-know-what.
Even stretching the truth or exaggerating it tends to get out of control. Seemingly small white lies take on a life of their own, and before we know it, we’re preoccupied with constantly covering our tracks.
Then there’s karma—and not the kind that meets us in our next lives. No, this is the real, here, down-to-earth, “what goes around comes around” kind of karma, and it can get nasty.
So, be honest. Dishonesty is more trouble than it’s worth. Honesty truly is the best policy when it comes to living free of regrets. The truth doesn’t change, so play it straight and karma won’t come back to bite you.
- Let it go.
All kinds of things in life disappoint us: other people aren’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, and of course life itself isn’t perfect.
So, everybody experiences adversities and defeats in life. But continuing to carry the disappointment around with us does not serve us. Bearing those secret, hidden burdens is living life like a double agent, and it’s intrinsically oppressive.
Releasing disappointment is a true path to a happier, more fulfilling life. But so much of the advice we hear about releasing it is so trite or frivolous that it just isn’t that helpful. Simply telling yourself to “let stuff go” isn’t going to get it done. We need to know why. We need genuine answers, not insipid platitudes or vapid memes that won’t work.
Things will not always turn out just the way you want them do. But that doesn’t automatically mean that there isn’t something good involved. You just may not be able to see the blessings right now.
Releasing disappointment can be hard to do, but it’s necessary. Revisiting past mistakes or wrong keeps them at the forefront of your consciousness. Ask yourself why you’re letting them ruin your day, then consciously shift your focus onto happier things.
- Have fun.
Having fun increases your level of feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain, which is a good thing. It leaves you more energetic, creative, motivated, inspired, and empowered, and therefore less inclined to focus on your regrets. And we all would benefit from that!
But many adults lose their sense of frivolity and fun far too easily. Serious things happen that we have to deal with, then more things, and other things, and before we know it, we get stuck in a rut of seriousness. And just hearing, “Do more fun stuff!” is not helpful advice to people who don’t have laughter-makers in their lives.
Thankfully, fun doesn’t necessarily have to come from things outside yourself. You can make the decision to enjoy life more and make the fun happen. It’s easier than you think. Watch a funny movie, or be silly with some friends you trust. Laugh at yourself. Just give your laughter a kick-start, you’ll let loose, laugh more, and leave that serious old rut behind.
- Think counterfactually.
Counterfactual thinking is a proven mindset to help live life with fewer regrets. The past doesn’t stay in the past. Its feelings and memories carry forward and affect your future.
Counterfactual thinking is an effective way to live life with fewer regrets. It’s also a gateway to a more abundant, fulfilling, and happy future. Counterfactual thinking is a technique that modifies your view of future experiences by revising your version of the past. This helps remove any hold you’re allowing regret to have on you.
Begin by thinking about what happened to lead to your regret. Next, formulate a vision of what your ideal experience would have been instead. Couple this vision with speculation about the more positive feelings you would be experiencing if reality had unfolded according to your ideal. Finally, shift your focus onto these feelings that accompany this alternate, counterfactual reality.
If you continue with the same regretful emotions, they’ll continue to influence your thoughts, which influence your actions, which create substandard results. It’s a vicious circle because the same-old can only create the same-old!