Everyone has made poor choices or done something in their past that could possibly be labeled as "regrettable." But, think about it. The fact that you are now able to look back and realize that a mistake or mis-step occurred means you have learned a valuable lesson. Some of my choices may have landed me in unpleasant circumstances, but experiencing these things certainly built my current character. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for those character-building situations. Mistakes are stepping stones to an evolving life. No need for you to sink into regret or despair -- keep your chin up.
Time Required: now and forever
- Acknowledge a mistake has been made - It is easy to play the blame game, pointing fingers at someone else or circumstances as to why you have stumbled or why your life is difficult. Taking personal ownership that your past actions resulted in bringing about your current reality is the first step to moving past regrets and moving toward a brighter future.
- Make amends - If your past actions or words have harmed another person an apology may be in order. Or not, apologies can be tricky. Judge for yourself if an apology will help matters or only drudge up old wounds better left alone. But, definitely forgive yourself! Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. Continually berating yourself for past actions is self-defeating. Would you kick a dog while it was laying down? Of course not. Please don't do this to yourself. Righting a wrong is not always feasible. If you feel badly about a past action you've taken that cannot be righted, forgive yourself, and let it go.
- Do-overs - Sometimes feelings of regret arise not from our past actions, but from our non-actions. Have you ever regretted not taking a vacation, staying stuck in a dead-end job, not attending college... or whatever? It may be too late to reverse those decisions, but you still have options. Some colleges offer free classes for seniors. You might not have the time, money, or physical endurance to travel, but you can rent movies or attend travelog showings about the regions you wish to learn more about. New opportunities are available around every corner if you just open your heart and follow your dreams.
- Be grateful - The most valuable lessons learned in life often come from the mistakes we make. It may take a walk down a dark alley to see clearly. Embrace your follies, feel gratitude for getting past the worst episodes and eventually finding your way along a less-cluttered path.
- Be careful not to repeat the same mistake - A skinned-knee teaches a small child not to run so fast. Slow-down. If you are repeatedly faced with similar difficulties over and over again, this is a sure bet that you have not learned the lessons these situations are trying to teach. Opportunity will surface only after you take responsibility for faulty actions taken and change your current and future behaviors accordingly.
- Be watchful of future knee-jerk reactions - This is probably the toughest step, not reacting negatively to situations or the people who tend to push your buttons. We don't always have control over the things life tosses in front of us, but we do control our reactions. Stay calm. Introduce stress-management into your daily life. Meditation helps clear and focus the mind. Therapeutic play will help balance work-related stresses.
- Looking deeper inside - Re-evaluate the direction your life is taking. Have you accepted that your past mistakes are just that --- in the past? Focus on today. Become aware of your future goals and desires. Setting clear intentions will help clear the path so that your life progresses with a freer heart and increased happiness. The best is yet to come! Believe it.
- Remember, nobody is perfect. Including yourself!
- Forgiveness is golden.
- Live for today. Yesterday was then.