How to Deal With Regret (According to Experts)

Regret is something that we all experience at some point in our lives, but how we deal with it can make a significant difference.

While regret is a normal and human emotion to feel, it can also be difficult to manage when it consumes you.

According to experts, here are effective ways to deal with regret:

John F. Tholen, PhD

John F. Tholen

Retired Psychologist | Author, “Focused Positivity: The Path to Success and Peace of Mind

Learn to identify your dysfunctional thoughts

No matter what choices we make, we are likely sometimes to experience either “second thoughts” or form an actual conviction that we made the wrong one.

Our first challenge at such times is to determine if corrective action is in order—does it make the most sense to attempt to ‘undo’ the decision we made (e.g., cancel a commitment, return a purchased item, even annul a marriage, etc.) or apologize or make amends to someone who was offended by our decision or action.

These steps are best made via responsible self-assertion— expressing our honest feelings and wishes in a manner that also shows respect for the feelings and wishes of others.

When we experience regret or remorse but find no reason to take action to change or apologize for our decision, the challenge shifts to one of better accepting the choice we made.

Regret and remorse, like all our emotions, result not from the events and circumstances we encounter but instead from our self-talk— the internal monologue that streams through our waking consciousness, interpreting our every experience.

Our automatic thoughts— the ideas that spontaneously ‘pop’ into our minds—are determined by a complex interaction between our biology and early-life experience, two factors that are beyond our control.

When that interplay has left us excessively self-critical or cynical about life, our automatic thoughts tend to be dysfunctional— causing distress without inspiring constructive steps.

When dysfunctional thoughts are allowed to occupy the focus of our attention, they invade our self-talk, disrupt our peace of mind, and inhibit constructive action— even though they are almost always incomplete, unreasonable, or completely wrong.

Related: How to Stop Intrusive Thoughts

Therefore, we can better manage regret and remorse by learning to identify our dysfunctional thoughts and challenge them with more balanced and reasonable (functional) alternatives that reassure, inspire hope, or motivate self-assertion.

Cognitive therapy (CT) is a psychological treatment approach that is considered “evidence-based.”

A review of 325 different research studies involving more than 9000 subjects found CT to be effective in treating depression (adult and adolescent), anxiety disorder, and social phobia (David et al., “Why Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy Is the Gold Standard of Psychotherapy,” Frontiers of Psychiatry, January 2018).

CBT works by challenging our dysfunctional thoughts, and the most efficient form of CBT is the 4-step focused positivity strategy:

  1. Becoming more mindful of our thoughts by recording and examining them whenever we experience regret or remorse,
  2. Identifying dysfunctional thoughts that have become the focus of our attention and are causing our regret or remorse,
  3. Collecting more reasonable, balanced, and functional alternatives that reassure, inspire hope, or motivate self-assertion, and
  4. Systematically refocusing our attention away from the dysfunctional thoughts and toward the functional alternatives.

Related: How to Control Your Thoughts

The closest thing we have to a “superpower” is our ability at any moment to shift the focus of our attention.

When we hope to manage feelings of regret or remorse better, we are likely to benefit from refocusing our attention toward functional thoughts such as:

  • “I’m only human, and the choice I made seemed best at the time, given my limits in knowledge and clairvoyance.”
  • “What now may seem like a mistake seemed entirely understandable then—and is reasonably forgivable.”
  • “Although the choice I made may not have been the best, I may be able to make it into a good decision by persisting at doing what seems to be the next right thing.”
  • “Mistakes are inevitable, and they provide useful information for moving forward.”
  • “My best efforts sometimes produce disappointing results because life is unpredictable, and I have normal human limitations.”

Marie Pettit, LCPC, NCC

Marie Pettit

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Founder, Sunflower Counseling, Montana

Realize that life isn’t so black and white

Yoda says, “once you start down that dark path, forever will it consume you.” As a licensed LCPC, I can tell you that he is correct when it comes to regret.

What you don’t want to do, is to focus on “what you missed out on” for extended periods of time. Regret is like holding a 5-pound weight. If you hold it for a few minutes, it’s no big deal. But if you hold it all day, then it is torture.

Thus, as soon as you notice the “regret thoughts” enter your mind, realize you have a decision to make. You can either:

  • continue to focus on regret and what you missed out on, or
  • you can focus on something else.

It’s extremely tempting to focus on those terrible thoughts — because there is often a little bit of a zing or a rush within the regret! “It’s no big deal if I think about this just for a little while,” we all think.

The problem is — is that it is a big deal. That little thought snowballs, and soon the person with regret begins lashing out. Someone has to pay the price, and it’s probably not the person with regret because someone else is often to blame in this victim mindset.

Not to mention, it’s this zing or rush that makes it so tempting to want to go down that dark road! In other words, regret can be very addictive.

Regret is comparison in disguise

And we have all met these people in our life, haven’t we? They talk about those days when they were really “going for it” down in Los Angeles to be an actor, and they hung out with so-and-so, and if they had “just stuck with it,” then they would be the Vice President of Warner Bros. by now.

But then something happened. Someone or something got them off track, and they were derailed.

They will often compare themselves with who they are now with who they could have been, and therein lies the pain.

Blow up the old story

The problem is, if they stick with this script, then they will continue to hate their lives. So as a therapist, my job is to help them process this story and realize that life isn’t so black and white.

For example, maybe they are correct — they might have become the Vice President of Warner Bros. had they stayed! But they also would have wound up selling their soul. They would have had to indulge in cheap, con-man tactics that took advantage of other people.

Sure, they would have the money had they stayed, but what would have been the price? Maybe if they stayed, they would have gotten addicted to drugs.

And no amount of money in the world is worth trading for this. Plus, money is just money! It’s like a score in a video game.

Do you really need that Tesla? Isn’t it kind of obscene from a certain point of view? Is it worth moping around because we can’t drive in a stupid car? It’s a car; that’s all that it is.

So my clients and I re-create our meanings together. We blow ourselves up together and decide what the world really means.

Re-focus and create a new story

In other words, focusing on being a creator in our life instead of a victim is where it’s at. The people who regret are stuck in victim mode. They just need to process that there is more to the limiting picture than they are seeing. So they need to step back, zoom out, and see the entire picture.

Related: How to Recognize and Overcome Victim Mentality

“What does my regret mean next to the people in Ukraine whose lives and families have been torn apart?” we ask ourselves. So we need to zoom out and get perspective.

Plus, regret is just temporary failure — and the best lives are built on temporary failure — which is really just learning, right?

Then my clients and I create a new vision for our future together. Something that excites them. Something that makes the old life inauthentic and mundane in comparison.

With this new life? It’s all about connection. Because it’s these connections to the people they love the most that is going to save them in the end.

It’s part of the process to become a good human.

Nicole Rainey, LMHC, ATR

Nicole Rainey

Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Art Therapist | Owner, Mosaic Creative Counseling

Remind yourself that you made the best choice possible

Regret is a normal emotion. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean anyone likes to feel it. We have all felt it before.

When we feel regret, it typically means we made a choice, and then something terrible followed that choice. After feeling regret, we usually tell ourselves one of two things: “I knew better…” or “I should have known better…”

The “I knew better” regret

When we feel regret because we “knew better,” that is usually a sign that we didn’t stick to our own boundaries or enforce our boundaries with others.

We have all felt this kind of regret before.

  • I regret saying yes to this party, and I knew I needed to be up early.
  • I regret signing up to volunteer for this event, and I knew I was overbooked already.

This “I knew better” form of regret means we might be struggling to set boundaries.

Many of us feel guilty for saying “no.” But what if saying “no” is the key to avoiding regret. So often, we say “yes” to something when it just doesn’t quite sit right.

Related: How to Say No at Work Without Feeling Guilty (With 50+ Examples)

Maybe we say yes to a job that we know is underpaid. Maybe we agree to take a client outside our normal hours. Perhaps you’ve reluctantly agreed to be the volunteer coach for the kids’ soccer club.

Why do we do this? Because many of us are fearful of saying “no” or being perceived as confrontational. We have to start to believe that resenting someone and regretting our decision is a worse outcome than saying “no” upfront.

Regret and resentment are feelings that fester inside and lead to burnout and overwhelm.

  • Have you ever been to a party where one of the guests is talking about how they shouldn’t have come? No one wants to be around them.
  • Have you ever seen a parent who volunteers for everything, but all they talk about is how overwhelmed, and busy they are? They spread negativity to everyone else.

One of the most compassionate things we can do for others is lean into the hard conversations up front.

Say, “no.” Say, “not this time.” You have a right to advocate for your preferences and needs.

When you do, you will actually be a more enthusiastic volunteer, a more compassionate parent, a more grateful employee, and a better version of yourself.

The best way to protect yourself from regret before it happens is to set and stick to boundaries.

The “I should have known better” regret

Sometimes we don’t know better, but our inner critic tells us, “I should have known better.”

This kind of regret typically happens when we are just living our life, making decisions as best we can, and something unpredictable comes out of the left field.

When this happens, we tend to blame ourselves. We need to stop blaming ourselves when something unexpected happens that causes a regrettable outcome.

All of us are doing the best we can.

One of the best ways to deal with this kind of regret is to remind yourself: “I made the best decision possible with the tools and information I knew at the time.” If you reflect on this statement, you might surprise yourself.

You might realize you actually didn’t have a crystal ball to predict the outcome.

There might have been actually no possible way you could have “known better” because you didn’t have all the information, or you couldn’t predict the future, or maybe you were choosing between two terrible options.

You made a decision based on high hopes and good intentions. That’s all any of us can do.

Dr. Monica Vermani, C. Psych.

Monica Vermani

Clinical Psychologist | Author, A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas

Realize that we do the best we can with what we know at the moment

To err is human, to forgive, divine… so the saying goes. While we are often able to forgive others, when it comes to forgiving ourselves, we often struggle.

Related: What Is Forgiveness and Why Is It Important?

In the course of our lives, we will experience regrets of varying magnitudes, some trivial or passing, and others that loom large and persist.

The reality of life is that every experience — whether we judge that experience as positive or negative — provides us with an opportunity to move toward becoming a higher, better version of ourselves.

We need to recognize that some of our regrets inspire us:

  • to work harder,
  • become more dedicated,
  • motivate us to grow and succeed,
  • take us down a new pathway,
  • cause us to shift focus, and
  • lead us to greener pastures and unimaginable opportunities

Regret is a form of self-scrutiny and criticism, a rehashing of past events, and judging ourselves, realizing that we could have acted differently and made better choices.

The reality is that we do the best we can with what we know at the moment.

Even when we lack skills, knowledge, ability, and wisdom, when we are in a situation, we do the best we can at the moment.

But life happens in the present, and even when we regret our choices, actions, interactions our outcomes, it is important to be able to deal with our regrets, no matter how troublesome.

Here are a few strategies for dealing with regret:

Recognize your feelings

Acknowledge your feelings and how your judgments and self-criticism prevent you from learning from your experience and cause you distress.

Understand that life is a succession of events

Recognize that life is a series of experiences. Remove negative judgments that categorize certain events or experiences as negative.

Remember that everything in life is a lesson from which we can learn and grow.

Put the past where it belongs — in the past

Avoid obsessing about past events. We often regret that we did not know better or do better in a situation. But when you find yourself obsessing over past mistakes, remind yourself that you did the best you could with what you knew at that moment.

Related: How to Make Peace with Your Past? (18 Powerful Tips)

Remind yourself how much you have learned and grown from that experience.

Accept your mistakes and vow to do better in the future

Accept the lessons of your mistakes and make a vow to make better choices in your future. Start believing in your capacity to grow and learn and be a better version of yourself.

Create positive affirmations and statements about yourself to replace the negative thoughts that you hold about past events or actions.

Have love and compassion for yourself

To be human is to error, after all. Forgive yourself and allow yourself to move forward from experiences that didn’t work out the way you hoped they would.

Speak with supportive friends and family

Speak with supportive friends and family members who know your history, and ask for their perspectives, rather than ruminating over family past events in a manner that may not be accurate or true.

Assess how you are coping with lingering regret

If you are struggling and unable to move on, consider seeking professional help.

Related: How to Let Go of the Past and Move On

Through psychological therapy and counseling, you can learn how to remove guilt and self-blame and revise negative thinking patterns that keep you stuck.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps people break ongoing negative patterns of:

  • self-scrutiny
  • regret
  • shame
  • guilt
  • self-blame

It helps people reframe, alter and reshape negative thoughts and feelings into more positive, adaptive, and self-supportive thought patterns.

Related: What are the Benefits of Positive Thinking?

Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD

Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios

Board-certified Psychiatrist, The Pleasant Mind

Reframe your thoughts and seek healthy solutions

Regret is a secondary emotion that stems from:

  • disappointment,
  • feelings of frustration due to loss,
  • missed out opportunities, and
  • failure to achieve things in life

In simple terms, regrets are intense feelings of being sorry about not achieving something important in life.

If the consequences of your decision are not fulfilling, you may regret your decision. Sometimes, regret is also associated with repentance and sadness.

When you regret your actions and decisions, you actually start blaming yourself for the negative outcome. You may feel like, “I shouldn’t have done it this way. it was a hasty call from my end.”

People regret when they feel that their actions gave rise to unpleasant outcomes. A lot of negativity gets generated in the ‘psyche,’ and it disrupts rational decision-making later on.

The best way to deal with regret is by reframing your thoughts and looking out for healthy solutions to problems. Avoid ruminating over past mistakes because it will trigger more regret in return.

Regrets are not always bad. It helps you to learn from past mistakes, thus facilitating personal growth.

Some of the best self-help tips to deal with regrets are as follows:

  1. Accept your feelings of repentance and disappointments.
    • These feelings work as a guiding light for not repeating similar decision flaws in the future.
  2. Avoid carrying the emotional baggage of regrets from the past into your present time. Learn from mistakes and not live in mistakes. It will only increase disappointments.
  3. Being obsessed with past errors will limit your ability to make better decisions in the present and future. Thus leave your past regrets and move on.
  4. Evaluate your choices and decisions that have led to regrets.
    • By doing this, you will reassess each and every step with logic and rationality. You will not repeat the mistakes that have led to an unpleasant outcome.
  5. Stop blaming yourself and never minimize your true feelings.
    • Sometimes, it could be less of your fault and more on others or the situation that led to a negative consequence.
  6. Be self-compassionate and expose yourself to a similar situation where you need to decide on something vital. This time, you will have more confidence and experience to decide the right thing at the right time.
  7. Remind yourself that past failures don’t mean you will fail again. It could be a learning opportunity as well for personal growth.
  8. Avoid focusing on past mistakes. It may end up in further loss of self-confidence.
  9. Spend time with loving people who can uplift your broken spirit by assuring you that you are ‘good enough’ and that you can overcome your mistakes again.
  10. Create small goals and fulfill them till you’re great at handling big projects successfully.
  11. You can also distract yourself by focusing on some other productive tasks, like doing something that you enjoy, maybe a sport or hobby, or getting into a skill enrichment program, etc.
  12. Learn to celebrate your tiny joys and little success stories.
  13. Be realistic about your skills and abilities.
    • Sometimes regrets occur when you push yourself too hard to learn or pursue something that is beyond your capability.
  14. You may think of counseling advice if you are constantly living in past regrets and lamenting the loss. It helps to learn good coping skills and reframes your mindset toward healthy growth.

Dr. Renetta Weaver, LCSW

Renetta Weaver

Neuroscience Coach | Clinical Social Worker

Allow yourself the emotional peace and freedom with a new perspective

Have you ever received a notice that started off with the words, “I/we regret to inform you….” How did you feel, and where did you notice it in your body?

If you imagined yourself having that experience, please know that you are not alone. I know that some people say, “I don’t have any regrets.” And maybe that’s true for them; however, for others, that might sound like toxic positivity.

Because for those who are experiencing guilt, self-blame, sadness, or any other negative adjective and feel it at the core of their being because they didn’t answer that phone call, marry that person, or accept that job.

Related: How to Deal with Guilt

In my case, I didn’t immediately call 911 when I watched my father have a stroke, and he ended up permanently paralyzed.

When the doctor looked at me and said, “We could have reversed his paralysis if you had called sooner.”

My whole family’s life changed because of that event, and I blamed myself. I replayed that moment repeatedly in my mind and questioned myself why I didn’t do things differently.

After all, I am a trained professional and know what to do.

But when I saw that stroke come down my father’s face, everything I knew was absent from my emotional mind. I realize that what I just shared was extreme, and I want to say that not every regret has to be tied to what someone else would consider extreme.

Regret is tied to anything that we personally consider to be a missed opportunity, and we question if things could have been different if we had made a different choice.

Feeling disappointed and sad at the thought that you missed out on something is normal. We often think that our life circumstances would be different and we would be happier if only.

We can either dwell and get stuck in the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, and become resentful, wishing the past could be different. Or we can allow ourselves to find the emotional peace and freedom that comes with having a change in perspective.

Shifting from fear of missing out, aka FOMO, to realizing that one event doesn’t have to stop you from living your best life.

Here is my REGRET formula that I created for myself to help me with self-forgiveness, and I am sharing it with you. I hope you will find value in these words and move through past regret.

REGRET formula:

  • Remember to give yourself grace, knowing you made the best decision for yourself at that time.
  • Encourage yourself by stomping out the ANTS (autonomic negative thoughts) and replacing them with this statement, “Despite it all, my current situation is not my final destination.”
  • Gratitude is an attitude that you can use to focus on what you have vs. what you don’t.
  • Reach for opportunities to fly through open windows when doors close.
  • Encourage yourself by using a mantra I created, “Nothing that is good and meant for me will ever miss me.”
  • Take time to enjoy the journey and know that one event is a semicolon, not a period in your life story.

Although my father became paralyzed, using this formula was the therapy I needed to get unstuck and move forward with enjoying my life.

Jacob Brown

Jacob Brown

Psychotherapist | Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist

You must be willing to experience tough feelings

Regret is a powerful emotion. Sometimes it can seem to overwhelm you and suck all the good out of your life. Perhaps the most challenging part of regret is that you feel so powerless.

After all, what we regret is in the past, and we can’t go back and change our actions. So, it can feel like you’re going to be stuck forever in your sadness, anger, and pain.

But experience has shown that we can work through our regrets.

We often experience regret as anger at ourselves. “I should have taken that job. What a jerk.” or “Why didn’t I ask her out when I had the chance. I’m such a loser.

But anger is usually just a cover for a more profound sense of loss. Regret is rooted in grief, the feeling that a dream has been lost. When you feel regret, you are really regretting the entire life you imagined would have been created if you’d made a different choice.

What makes regret so difficult is that you’re comparing what actually happened (the life you have today) vs. the life you imagine you “would” have had (e.g., I would have become rich, had kids, found my true love).

In that situation, comparing reality with a dream makes it very easy to feel like you made the wrong choice.

We can’t just cut off the feelings of regret. You have to move through them. And to do that, you must be willing to experience some difficult feelings.

Here are five actions that can help you move past regret:

  1. Feel the sadness and grief of loss.
    • This is an important first step. We tend to shy away from these uncomfortable feelings. But if you don’t really experience the loss, we can’t move past the loss.
  2. Practice self-compassion.
    • Dealing with regret isn’t easy. This is hard, not just for you but for everyone who has a regret. Admit that you’re having a hard time dealing with your regrets. Recognize that you’re not alone in this; we all have regrets.
    • In other words, give yourself a break; you’re doing the best you can.
  3. Experience gratitude.
    • Be aware and thankful for everything you have in your life. Make a short gratitude list each morning. It can include little things (a long hot shower) or big things (my partner and kids). But take a moment to be aware of what you have in life today.
  4. Recognize you are mourning a fantasy.
    • You’re not actually regretting not taking the job or asking the girl out. You’re regretting the loss of this huge fantasy life you’ve created of “what would have happened” if you’d made the other choice. But that’s just a fantasy. You have no idea what actually would have happened.
  5. Learn from the experience.
    • Spend some time thinking about what lesson you can take from this experience.
    • How can you gain some wisdom from what happened?

Christy Piper

Christy Piper

Coach and Speaker | Author, “Girl, You Deserve More

I used to see mistakes as regrets; now, I see them as learning opportunities. In retrospect, I can analyze what I did wrong and see how I can fix it in the future.

What if you were wronged by someone else?

There’s a good chance that the person or organization did wrong you. But this is not very empowering and puts you into the victim position. It gives them all the authority and makes you feel powerless.

By taking the blame for the part that you could’ve changed or done better, you actually take your power back.

Only a courageous person can take the blame

It takes a brave person to see the error of their ways. Courageous people admit they made a mistake, and they can do better next time.

The average person blames other people for their failures and lives as a victim. This is the easy way out. Don’t be a victim. And know that failure is only temporary.

Find another opportunity to try again

There are other opportunities to try again. It may be with the same person or job. Or it may be with a totally new person or job.

If it’s not obvious how you can try again, bounce ideas off friends. Ask friends who are in the same field or who know a lot about the topic you’re regretful about. They may just tell you about opportunities you didn’t think of yourself.

Talk it out with trusted friends or a coach

The importance of talking it out with trusted friends or a coach:

Talking about it with a friend or coach serves a double purpose. Some may give you tips on future possibilities. Others may just be a listening ear. It enables you to tell your side of the story without judgment. Keeping it bottled up inside only promotes shame.

It’s hard to take action and try again when you’re living with shame. So it’s time to air out your dirty laundry with someone you fully trust.

What if you don’t have another opportunity to try again?

There is always another opportunity. Even if it’s not for the same exact thing, get creative. See how you can apply your knowledge to your current goals and keep moving forward.

Taking action will also give you confidence when you see positive
results.

You’ll likely find that your past mistake translates into many other valuable lessons you can apply and benefit from in your life, even if these new opportunities look totally different at first glance.

Say no to excuses— change your attitude to positive

You may think you are too old, out of shape, out of practice, or any other number of things. But these are all just excuses and probably not even true.

Everything in life can be positive or negative. It’s all in how you look at it.

Experience gives you the edge

When you choose to see your age and experiences learned as a positive thing, you’ll see how you now have an advantage. You have an edge against any competitors, and you are far more likely to succeed in general.

You also now have the advantage of knowing how important this thing is to you. When you tried it as a younger person or beginner, you likely didn’t care as much as you do now.

People who care and are committed are far more likely to succeed.

Never give up

The most important trait in successful people is never to give up.

Every successful person has a string of failures you never see. They just keep getting up, learning their lessons, and trying again. One day people will only see your successes, too. They won’t know about or see all your failures.

To give you perspective: Remember the string of hidden failures someone had to endure whenever you see them succeed previously.

Rebeccah Silence, MT-BC, MS

Rebeccah Silence

Emotional Healing Coach | Author, Coming Back to Life

Have time to repair, create, and reinvent

Regret can indicate that there is something that you want.

Additionally, regret could indicate that you want something more for yourself, someone else, or a wish that life could be better for you or for others for whom you care.

Finally, regret is a sign that you still have time to build and move towards what you want.

If you don’t take advantage of the feeling of regret, the alternative is resignation, which will only lead to more pain and more regret. The good news is that any sense of regret can be used to your advantage. If you are experiencing regret, you still have time to repair, create, or reinvent.

Repair

If it’s a relationship that needs repair, reach out and let the person know you miss them and want to try again in a better way for both of you. If the person has passed, write them a letter saying everything you didn’t get to say until now.

Create

If it’s a goal or a dream, hire a coach to help you get there. Starting the process is the hardest part, but don’t be afraid of a blank page. The most notable works of art come from a blank canvas, so turn that fear into an opportunity to create something new without constraints and boundaries.

Reinvent

Whatever your past includes, your past life need not dictate who you become or whom you choose to be now. Every moment is an opportunity to start again. We can keep getting better when we commit to reinvention. Pain and trauma can heal and transform.

Related: How to Start Over in Life and Reinvent Yourself

Relationships can heal and change, too, but the most important relationship to reinvent is the one with yourself.

Whether you need to repair, create, or reinvent, start now by choosing to be a version of yourself that is conscious, intentional, and in the leadership of who you are being and how you are living.

From moment to moment, focus on taking one simple step towards what you want — and the life you want.

Dr. Anna Yam, Ph.D

Anna Yam

Clinical Psychologist in Private Practice, Bloom Psychology

Regret can be seen as a pattern of thoughts and feelings we have after making a mistake. Mistakes are normal, and so is regret. The problem arises when regret takes up more space in our lives than we want.

If you’re struggling with regret, taking the following steps might help you move past it.

Validate your emotions with compassion

Your feelings about the mistake you made represent real suffering.

Before moving on to any solutions, the fact that you suffered and are still suffering needs to be acknowledged and allowed.

Self-compassion in this process is key

You might say to yourself, “I made a mistake, and it caused me to suffer,” and “suffering is painful.” You can feel compassion for yourself the way you would for a friend; this is healthy and normal.

Decide what you want to learn

Our mistakes are an opportunity to learn. This learning can be done with intention. Set aside some time and write down two to three lessons or takeaways you have from experience.

It might help to answer the following questions:

  1. What kind of person do I want to be next time this situation or this choice is presented? Caring, thoughtful, brave, creative?
  2. What specific actions would this version of me take in the future when faced with this situation?

Next time thoughts of regret come up, you can gently remind yourself that you have already taken the time to learn and formulate a plan of action.

Dr. Valerie Simonsen, ND

Valerie Simonsen

Global Naturopathic Physician

If regret is present, offer yourself forgiveness

Regret can be expensive. “Should of…” “Could of…” “If only…” “I would of…” This is the price paid when there are regrets.

Making decisions based on awareness and alignment with your personal value systems can limit the elements of regret.

Helpful tools for weighing in on the cost of a decision; consider how this decision is adding value to your life. Ask yourself, “Would I be investing my time, money, and other resources into something that adds more joy and value to my life?”

Also, what personal needs that you have will be supported by your decisions?

Understanding value. Value, as a verb, is to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance. As a noun, value is relative worth, merit, or importance.

Take some time today and reflect on what is valuable to you. Write your values in a journal or notepad so you can refer to them when making decisions in the future.

According to Maslow’s pyramid, there are five levels of needs. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are:

  • Physiological (food and clothing),
  • Safety (job security),
  • Love and belonging needs (friendship),
  • Esteem, and
  • Self-actualization

Prevention is the most effective way to avoid regret. Weigh the costs emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Ask yourself, “Are my choices in alignment with my value system and supporting my needs?” If not, reevaluate your decisions.

If there is doubt, don’t. If it’s fear, face it. There is a fine line between doubt and fear. Take a breath and ask your inner knowingness what is the right action for you.

There will be a number of voices that speak through your heart, yet the first one that speaks is in alignment with your values and needs.

If regret is present, offer yourself forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the dream that the past would have been different than it was. There is no such thing as mistakes, only experiences. We can learn from the pain of regret and have the opportunity to make different choices in the future.

So today, make the choices that serve your highest good. Regrets know more.

Karen Donaldson

Karen Donaldson

Certified Confidence Coach | Celebrity Communication and Body Language Expert | Author, “Speak Like You Breathe

Remind yourself that you are not your past

First, know that experiencing regret is normal, and you’re normal if you’re experiencing it. You simply don’t want to live in the past and live in regret.

  • To start, acknowledge your feelings, and don’t dismiss or ignore them, hoping that they’ll go away.
  • Give yourself some grace and be gentle with yourself. Most of the time, we make our decisions based on what we know at the time or how we’re feeling at the time.
  • Acknowledge that you can’t change the past, but you have full influence over your present.

Here’s where I want you to pause and say this over and over again to yourself until you can hear it:“I can’t change the past, but I have full control over what happens now, and I intend to control my now.”

Ask yourself these questions to start perceiving your regret differently and use it to fuel the present.

  • What do you regret? Name it out loud, and write it down.
  • Really look at what you’d do differently if it were to happen/ occur again.
  • Name it out loud and write it down.
  • What did you take from that experience?
  • What would you not do again?
  • What would you do again?

Remind yourself that you are not your past, and then actively decide, plan and commit to what you want in the present.

Most importantly, take action on what you’ve decided for yourself in the next 24 hours. What this will do is re-direct your focus to what is and what can be — you can’t think about the past and what you’re currently doing at the same time.

In any given moment that you find yourself caught up in regret, ask yourself this: “What do I want for myself now?” Then act on it.

Joseph Robert K’Amo

Joseph Robert K’Amo

CEO and Founder, The Fantasy Football Counselor

Deal with regret by honoring your passion

Being an entrepreneur and doing what I love has helped me live my life with as little regret as possible. In fact, I started my fantasy football business because I didn’t want to live my life with regrets and work jobs that left me unfulfilled.

Even though I talk about sports for a living and enjoy it more than anything, I have had my share of regrets in the past.

I actually feel the regrets helped mold the success I have today and helped me live my life to the fullest each day.

If I had to choose my biggest regret, it would have to be not figuring out my passion earlier in life. I didn’t discover I could run a six-figure business around my passion until I was 33 years old.

While this doesn’t seem late, I really feel that I should have started earlier. I spent ten-plus years of my working life working for other people and doing jobs I really didn’t enjoy.

I never had the proper direction and mentorship to tell me that I could do it on my own. We weren’t taught about entrepreneurship in school, and I felt that working 9-5 was the only way to go about living.

If I can offer advice to anyone who is unfulfilled in their job, I would tell you to build your side hustle and eventually make it full-time. Build content around what you love and offer a service that offers value to your customers. I wish someone had told me this earlier.

I felt unfulfilled and empty for my entire corporate work life from about the age of 22-33. I sold industrial hydraulic products and had a safe sales job, but this wasn’t what I felt I should be doing. I knew deep down that there needed to be a change.

Unfortunately, I read somewhere that after the age of 25, it is very hard to change old habits. It takes pain to create massive change.

For me, losing my dad suddenly at the age of 33 sparked my passion for getting out of my comfort zone. The loss of my dad was tragic to me, and I used it as fuel to succeed.

My dad was a blue-collar steelworker, and I knew that I didn’t want to live a life with money not being abundant. My humble beginnings were a driver for me to build my current business to the top of the fantasy sports industry.

I took my pain and used it positively to put out content daily. I created the best product in the industry that offers analysis to people looking to draft their fantasy teams.

My passion prevailed.

Related: Why Is Passion Important for Success in Life?

So, while my regret is hoping that I started earlier, I feel that my previous sales jobs and pain gave me the skills that I have to succeed today. I wish my dad were here to see the success, but I know he is looking down and guiding me along the way.

I genuinely wish I had started doing what I love earlier in life, but glad it is all working out right now. So, can I even say I regret anything at all?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common regret people have?

Missed opportunities: Many people regret not taking advantage of opportunities that came their way, such as job offers, travel experiences, or educational pursuits. They may feel they missed out on life-changing experiences or personal growth.

Relationships: Regrets around relationships often involve not spending enough time with loved ones, not expressing emotions or feelings, or not resolving conflicts. These regrets can lead to feelings of loss, guilt, or emotional pain.

Career choices: Some individuals regret their career paths, feeling they chose the wrong profession, didn’t follow their passions, or didn’t reach their full potential in their chosen fields.

Health and wellness: Regrets related to health may involve not taking care of oneself physically or mentally, neglecting self-care routines, or engaging in unhealthy habits that led to long-term consequences.

Financial decisions: People may regret poor financial decisions, such as not saving enough for the future, incurring excessive debt, or making unwise investments. These regrets can create stress and feelings of insecurity.

How can I tell if my regret is healthy or unhealthy?

Healthy regret involves acknowledging and learning from past mistakes or decisions, using them as opportunities for personal growth and self-improvement. It can help you develop empathy, resilience, and problem-solving skills.

Some signs of healthy regret include:

Willingness to learn: You can accept responsibility for your actions and understand the consequences, allowing you to make better choices in the future.

Motivation for change: Healthy regret can inspire you to set new goals, break unhealthy patterns, or pursue personal development, leading to positive life changes.

Emotional processing: You’re able to process and cope with the emotions associated with regrets, such as sadness, guilt, or disappointment, and use them constructively to grow emotionally.

On the other hand, unhealthy regret is characterized by persistent feelings of guilt, shame, or self-blame that prevent you from moving forward and enjoying your life.

Some signs of unhealthy regret include:

Ruminating: If you find yourself constantly dwelling on past mistakes, unable to let go or forgive yourself, your regret may be unhealthy.

Neglecting the present: Unhealthy regret can cause you to focus too much on the past, leading to neglect of your current relationships, responsibilities, and opportunities for growth.

Low self-esteem: If your regret is causing you to feel unworthy or inadequate, it’s likely unhealthy and may need addressing.

Why is regret so painful?

Regret can be particularly painful because it involves feelings of loss, disappointment, and self-blame. It forces us to confront the reality that our actions or inactions have consequences that can’t be undone. The pain of regret often comes from:

Loss of potential: Regret reminds us of the missed opportunities and potential outcomes we could have experienced had we made different choices. This can lead to feelings of grief and sadness.

Self-criticism: Regret often involves self-criticism and negative self-talk, causing us to question our worth or ability to make good decisions. This can erode our self-esteem and confidence, intensifying the pain associated with regret.

Guilt and shame: Regret can be accompanied by guilt and shame, particularly if our actions or decisions negatively impact others or go against our personal values. These emotions can be difficult to process and may lead to further emotional distress.

Sense of powerlessness: Regret often arises from a feeling that we can’t change the past or correct our mistakes. This sense of powerlessness can make regret particularly painful, as it highlights our inability to undo what has been done.

Does regret ever go away?

Regret is a natural human emotion, and whether it goes away or not depends on the individual and how they choose to process it. For some, regret can fade with time as they learn from their mistakes and focus on personal growth. Others might need to actively work on acknowledging and understanding their regrets to find closure.

Does regret change a person?

Regret can indeed change a person, depending on how they handle the experience. The impact of regret can be both positive and negative.

On the positive side, regret can serve as a powerful catalyst for personal growth and self-improvement. When someone acknowledges their regrets, they can identify areas of their life where they wish to make changes. This newfound awareness can motivate them to develop healthier habits, set new goals, and foster stronger relationships.

On the negative side, if someone allows their regrets to consume them, it can lead to a constant state of self-blame and rumination. This could result in feelings of depression, anxiety, and stagnation in personal growth. In such cases, it’s crucial to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional to work through these feelings.

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