We all feel regret at some stage in life….
The way the relationship ended, or not approaching someone you are interested in, regretting saying something to a friend or partner, missed opportunities in your career, not looking after your health better.
Regret is when we have “what if’s” when we believe what we look back on in certain moments and situations as having been bad choices. We can also regret feelings, being scared all the time, being too anxious, not assertive enough, worrying about what others think, being sad all the time, being too afraid, not sharing how you truly feel in a moment of joy or love.
The power of hindsight
At the time, regret is like a movie reel that plays over and over again. Often it can be a movie of how you feel a situation should have played out. Hindsight, looking back, is an amazing thing… how life could have been. If only that thing didn’t happen, if only I didn’t say that thing to my partner, if only I went to university, if only I tried harder in that relationship, if only I’d spoken out at work.
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It’s a moment, linked to a series of moments that follow. That choice made sense in the moment, but looking back it changed everything. It caused a chain reaction of decisions and possibly limited choices moving forward. We don’t regret the things that worked out for us do we? We only regret the things that didn’t work out the things that are different to how we wanted life to be. Regret only happens when we’re looking back.
If I look back on my life I can see so many missed opportunities, in every area of life. I’ve been so scared to meet people, that when I travelled around Europe, I’d be in bed by 8:30pm, not meeting new people or potentially creating meaningful connections. I’ve missed out on relationships because of fear. The biggest thing I regret in my past though, was the impulse decisions I’d make, or remark in a moment that created a knock on effect for years to come.
We only have limited time, so how do we choose what to focus on to limit regret. There are 5 keys that helped me to now be able to look back and have no regrets.
1. Know where you are…
When you are in google maps looking for directions from Melbourne to Sydney, google maps will first ask you to use your current location, or will ask you for the location you are travelling from. Melbourne isn’t specific enough, it want’s to know exactly what street and what number on the street. The more specific you can be the more accurate the directions will be. The same goes when you are making decisions. If you know who you are and where you are right now, it will make it easier to make decisions for which direction in life you want to go. Know what resources you have right now to make a decision. Is there someone who has been here before? Have you been here before?
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2. Check Perspective
Perspective goes hand in hand with knowing where you are, and this is where the people around you can be your best supporters, or can hold you back, depending on the situation. Be careful to check perspective with people who have been there before, by that I mean people who have been where you are going and can help you make the most informed decisions possible. If you don’t know anyone, find someone or if that’s not possible, there are books, articles and online resources you can use (people are best though!). Remember, you’re not always going to make the right decision, and that leads us to step 3…
3. What’s in your control?
So often we try and blame ourselves or regret things that really are not in our control. We can only be in control of our ourselves, our response in each situation. Knowing this can help with perspective, knowing where you are at and giving yourself feedback. You cannot be responsible for what someone else says or does. I can regret the education I never had, or not growing up in another city or state but that was outside of my control when I was a child. I could only do the best I could in each situation, and the older I got, the more experiences I was in, the more chances I had to incorporate what I have learned in the past.
This is really important and vital for growth and letting go of regret. I’m talking about advanced feedback, feedback for growth. You’re probably familiar with feedback like ‘you should have done…’ or ‘why didn’t you realise…’ This isn’t the kind of feedback I’m talking about. That’s the feedback that strengthens regret.
Advanced feedback is looking back and asking yourself two things….
What did I do well? (there is always something)
What could I do better next time?
What people are saying about Emotion Academy:
"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria
If you stood up for yourself in front of your boss. What you did well could be as simple as saying ‘Yay, I don’t usually stand up for myself and I did it. Next time I will be more prepared’.
Or if you went on a date, when you weren’t really didn’t want to. The feedback could be ‘Yay! I went on a date when I didn’t feel like it, now I have the experience of one more date. Next time I will re-schedule or even better, take a few moments to get excited about the date before walking in and giving it a go.’
By keeping it simple and giving yourself something that went well and something to do better next time, you’re learning and growing from the situation. It’s not wasted, it has value in your life even if it didn’t go as planned, or as you’d hoped.
It is when we don’t take the feedback that we stop learning and turn an opportunity to grow into regret. There have been plenty of things in my life that I can look back on and regret. I regret, I regret not building stronger relationships with amazing and talented people I have met and worked with. If I can look back and say I was doing my best in that moment at the time, and that I choose to learn and grow from each and every experience.
5. If you’re doing your best and learning from each experience so you can do better next time, there’s no room for regret…..
I could look back and regret not walking earlier in my life, but when I was a 1 year old, I was doing the best I could in that moment. I learned to walk as fast as I possibly could with the resources that I had in that moment. Everyone would agree that this makes sense in that scenario. But why don’t we apply this to the ‘adult’ reasoning we give ourselves.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
Why do we make it harder for ourselves?
Why don’t we apply a little of what we learned as a 1 year old, and get up again and learn from the past experiences. I didn’t feel regret after falling over when I was learning to walk, because each time I was getting better, building my muscles to be able to walk without thinking about it. Now it’s an automatic behaviour. Same thing happened when you were learning to talk, you probably said some words wrong, and it built up your experiences. You learned from your mistakes, to be able to speak as you do now.
“Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time” Viktor E. Frankl (from his book Man’s Search for Meaning)
Now I try and live a life with no ‘If only’s’. I learned this from a friend of mine who would spend extra time, and extra attention with his partner, takes extra care with his communication, makes decisions based on his big picture plans and most commonly will do the thing that he doesn’t want to do first in order to grow and be the person who looks back from his rocking chair with no ‘If only’s’. He doesn’t want to look back and think ‘What if I trained harder?’ ‘What if I studied more?’ ‘What if I spent an extra 5 minutes with my friend when they were struggling?’ Those moments can make all the difference.
Learn from your experiences, give yourself feedback, grow. I have learned to cherish where I am at because if I didn’t have the experiences that I had, every single one of them, then I wouldn’t be here with the friends I have, with the experiences I have, right now. If you’re not where you want to be yet, that’s ok. We are all learning and growing. Remember that there is always something in your life that is okay, that’s working appreciate that, the more you appreciate that the more it will grow.
Turn regret into learning, and keep growing.
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