Recently in my private FB group, one of the members expressed regret about how she showed up as a parent during her turbulent divorce battle. The post made me sad and got me thinking about feeling regret. I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing useful about regret and I hope I can convince you to have no regrets.
What is regret
Regret is an emotion or a feeling. It comes from a thought that you are currently having about something that happened in the past. Thoughts like:
- I should have done this
- I shouldn’t have said that
- That was so stupid of me
These thoughts are just sentences that your unmanaged brain is offering up to you. These phrases create feelings like regret, embarrassment, and shame. You will be flooded with the negative vibration and you will not take strategic positive actions from here.
There is nothing useful about regret
Regret is one of those emotions that may seem useful and responsible, but it actually is not. There is nothing productive about walking around thinking you should have or shouldn’t have. It just does not help you now (unless you have a time machine). It only serves to punish you and more importantly, it diminishes your ability to be effective today. Regret is based on the past and it will keep you from taking action that moves you forward.
Regret doesn’t keep you from making the same mistake
Many people believe that if they don’t feel regret, they may make the same mistakes. The opposite is actually true. When you have negative emotions (like regret) you will not take positive actions. In other words, when you feel bad, you do more bad. Flooding your system with regret may make you hide, drink more, overeat more.
My clients tell me, “I should have known better…I shouldn’t have done that”. These thoughts do not serve them in any way. Instead they get stuck in a self-loathing internal dialogue that does not generate forward movement and recovery.
The alternative to regret is wisdom
If you want to be a person who moves forward and does not make the same mistakes, regret will not get you there. Knowing and wisdom will. Expect to make decisions that don’t result in the desired outcome. No need to regret those. Instead look at each mistake as a learning tool. Feel wiser with each fail. I call this failing my way forward and I do it on the daily. This is how I become wise and don’t repeat mistakes. I deliberately choose to have no regrets.
Tell yourself a better story
Regret doesn’t just happen to you. It is a result of the story your brain tells you. You can actually choose in advance to have no regrets when you make a decision, regardless of the outcome. You can decide that every decision you make is an amazing decision, regardless of the outcome so long as you like your reasons. Simple.