We’ve all done something “regrettable.” But that doesn’t mean we can’t live without regrets.
The key is to refuse to play the blame game and realize that mistakes are an integral part of an evolving life.
Not that we should ignore transgressions. It’s important to acknowledge them, consider how we may have contributed to the circumstances that led to them, and commit to learning from the experiences.
Sometimes, it’s also important to apologize. If you’ve hurt someone, and a sincere “I’m sorry” will help make amends, do it. If, however, bringing it up will worsen the wound, if it won’t right the wrong, let it go and let yourself off the hook.
What if it’s not something you did, but something you didn’t do? Maybe you regret not getting a degree or waiting too long to have children. You can address some regrettable “non-actions.” Maybe you still can’t go to Harvard, but you can enroll in a community college course or online program. And many needy children would benefit from having you as their foster or sponsor parent.
Make sure you’re not setting yourself up to make the same mistakes by managing your emotional reactions to people and situations. Try daily “mini-meditations” to cultivate calmness and composure: Close your eyes and take 10 deep, conscious breaths. “It slows down your entire nervous system, shifts your brain chemistry and makes us feel good…very creative and inspired,” says Kathy Freston, author of “Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness” (Weinstein Books). “You’ll respond to your day very differently.”
Get in touch with gratefulness. A powerful way to put the past the behind us is to reframe the present and the future. Instead of dwelling on what is over and done with, focus on the good. No matter how small. And this can include choosing to see what we’ve overcome as a positive. Journaling can help with this. Or simply take a few minutes before you get out of bed to think of at least one thing for which you’re thankful. Our resilience and ability to begin every day with a sense of hopefulness rather than dread will help propel us forward.
I really like another idea that Freston recommends: being of service. You may be slogging through your day mired in regrets, but there’s a whole world out there that can needs your talents and time. Reach out and do something; volunteer, formally or informally. What can you do to help someone else today? There’s no better way to gain perspective and truly underscore how connected you are to the rest of the human race. And to remind you that whatever regrets you have probably pale when compared others’.
And be playful. Believe that happiness and optimism is your natural state. It’s not dismissing reality to find joy in being alive. It’s a way of freeing our hearts and minds to invite good things to grow and flow.
So snag that gorgeous yellow lemon off the tree – and forget about lemonade. I say make a lemon martini and toast your future!