Dealing with regret

Regrets are painful. And as time passes, they accumulate and pile up into an ugly mess that’s hard to get rid of. It seems like no matter what you do, there are always regrets just prodding at you.

How then, do we get deal with them and start living positively? You act only based on all the information you have at the time. But sometimes, circumstances change so that when you look back, it seems like you should have made a different decision.

The thing is, how would you have known at the time?

Stop being so hard on yourself. Based on your current situation at the time, you picked the best choice amongst all others. Even today, you don’t know what the future holds in store and you’ll likely make choices depending on what your situation is like right now.

Embrace the present.

People like to time travel in their heads. That includes me, too. As a kid, I would sometimes wish that I was grown-up already.

Time travel happens all throughout our lives. When people are bored at work, they think about sitting at home watching TV. When they watch TV at home, they worry about work.

Later, we end up wishing we had savored more of our time as it was.

So instead, we should focus our time on being, rather than wishing. Take a moment right now, and enjoy the moment you are in.

Realize saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to others.

We want everything. It’s just human nature. We want money, recognition, fun, and good relationships. The problem is that there’s only so much time in the day and often sacrifices have to be made.

If you look back and think that you should have had more fun, that’s probably because you said “no” to fun and “yes” to money. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if done within reason. Think about what would happen if you had chosen to have more fun and worked less. Would you then say, “I wish I had more money”? Probably.

Happiness is largely a choice.

If you’re reading this, you probably have the basic necessities of life: shelter, food, and sleep. Maybe you have a loving spouse, kids, parents, siblings, or friends as well.

Once you have the basic necessities, having more doesn’t mean you’ll be happier. There will always be someone with more of what you want, and that person isn’t necessarily happy.

Remember to practice gratitude for what you do have as you travel your own journey.

Recognize that you have different priorities at different stages of life.

At one period in your life, you might focus on building a career. Then, your priority shifts to spending time with family.

Wanting your past self to have spent time doing something else means imposing your present set of values on your past self, which doesn’t make sense.

Our values evolve as we age. Even now, you might be spending time on a goal that your future self would think differently about. That’s okay.

What’s important is that your values in that time period align with the activities that you’re pursuing.

Know that things could have turned out much, much worse.

I spoke to someone who had turned down an offer for a prestigious program for another one. He lamented, “I wish I had gone there instead.”

But, how does he know that the other program would make him happier? The fact is that he doesn’t.

Things could have taken a turn for the worse. He could have had worse experiences had he chosen differently.

So accept that events have happened and in some way contributed to your life, whether by making you stronger, happier, or better prepared for the future.

Accept that many events are outside of your control.

It makes me sad to hear about people who blame themselves for an event in the past that wasn’t their fault. Maybe someone couldn’t rescue a loved one, or missed out on an opportunity for personal growth.

Often, people blame themselves when they look back at what they lost. At the same time, they forget the fact that they really didn’t have a choice.

Don’t tear yourself up. Make the most of the time you have now in the present.

Article by Melissa Chu

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