Having regrets is painful, there’s no two ways about it.
We have regrets when we look back at our previous choices and either wish we hadn’t done something or wish we had done something. We often beat ourselves up at this point and this can continue for months or even years.
Whenever we have regrets, we always feel one type of emotion…..……and that’s a negative one.
What is the real cause of regrets?
The reason why we have regrets, and make ourselves feel bad, is that we are using a new set of information to judge our previous decisions. We have regrets because we now know the outcome of our decision. We know how it’s turned out and if we are having regrets……it means that we don’t like the outcome.
The new information that we judge ourselves by is……..hindsight.
I can honestly say that in my 44 years I can count on one hand the number of regrets that I have and even then I wouldn’t need all of my fingers. Is this because I have made perfect decisions throughout my life? Is it because I’m an unusually lucky individual? The answer is a resounding no for both. I have made a fair few shockingly poor decisions in my life, some of which caused me some serious pain. However, I have avoided regretting these decisions (and the pain of regret) by using the technique that I’m going to talk about now.
So, how do you avoid regrets?
The secret to avoiding painful regrets is to know what to say to yourself when you have them. This involves using a technique called reframing and is really effective for making yourself happier in a variety of situations.
This is how I use reframing……..
Every time I start to feel disappointed at how a situation has turned out, the first thing that I do is remind myself of these two facts:
1) I didn’t have the luxury of hindsight when I made the decision. I made the decision based on how I felt and the information I had available to me at the time.
2) When I made the decision, I made the best decision for me, at the time, based on the information that I had and the way I felt about the situation.
Whenever we make a decision, we don’t know with absolute precision how the situation will turn out. The best we can do at the time is predict how it will turn out. But a prediction is not a guarantee, especially when we are dealing with other people, who make their own decisions about how to react. When we make a decision we also don’t know about other factors that will come into play after we have made the decision. Life has a funny way of introducing other factors that we couldn’t have predicted!
What else do I do?
1) I remind myself of the fact that I don’t have a crystal ball, so I remind myself that I did what was best for me at the time, with the limited knowledge I had.
2) I focus on why I thought it was a good idea at the time. (All human beings seek pleasure and avoid pain. Every decision that you make is due to this). I look for how I thought I would seek pleasure and how I thought I would avoid discomfort, to reassure myself that it was a good decision at the time.
3) I remind myself that I can’t turn back time and the decision has been made, so I don’t beat myself up over something that I can’t take back or change.
4) I avoid asking myself “what if” as I know that this will just torture me further and that doesn’t feel good or serve any positive purpose.
5) I look to see if there is anything I can do today or in the future to rectify the situation because I know that I can control what I do and say from now on.
6) I ask myself what I can learn from what has happened. I ask myself what would I do in the future and what would I avoid doing in the future?
7) Sometimes I reduce the pain of the situation by telling myself that it was meant to be.
8) I then try to look at the new situation positively and ask myself “how could this new situation benefit me?”
I hope this blog has helped you to reduce the pain of any regrets that you have.
On a final note, please remember that whether we have regrets or not is totally within our control. This is because we control what we say to ourselves when thoughts of regrets pop into our heads.
Changing our way of responding to these painful thoughts can take a bit of practice, as these techniques are new to many people, but the peace of mind that people will get is definitely worth the effort.
Until next time