Rarely does a day come to an end when we find ourselves thinking that we got absolutely everything done that we wanted to accomplish, and that it worked out just as we had hoped. Most days end filled with small regrets – I wish I’d gotten more accomplished at work, I wish I had eaten better, I wish I had called so-and-so, I wish I had done a better job with that project, and on and on.
When we step back and look at the big picture of our lives, the regrets that we carry with us get even bigger. I wish I had spent more time with loved ones, I wish I had gathered more family stories, I wish I had seen how my actions were impacting my loved ones, I wish I had taken a different career path, I wish, I wish, I wish.
As we learn more about ourselves over the years, it’s easy to want to go back and re-write our stories, our lives. In some cases, what we learn can be helpful in the path to healing not only ourselves but also our relationships with others. When you discover something about who you are, your personality, and it helps you to understand why certain relationships worked out how they did or why certain experiences played out in ways that seemed incredibly painful and unfair at the time, it might actually be part of your healing process to revisit the experience with others who were involved, and healing might come to the relationship as well. That is a productive use of self-growth and self-discovery.
When you take these regrets and let them become part of your narrative, part of who you are, you are poisoning yourself, those around you, and your future experiences, dreams, and desires.
Here are a few ways that regret acts as a poison:
- Regret makes you feel like you are flawed, and then you are likely to view every similar situation in your life with the same negative lens
- Regret closes the door to the possibility that events played out exactly as they were supposed to, for the benefit of everyone involved
- Regret gives undue power to your past
In these ways and more, regret zaps your energy, your life force, and makes it much more difficult to thrive.
Think of a time in your life, an event or an experience with someone else that fills you with regret. Now think about what you have decided that must mean about you, why you’ve held onto it, and how much it has burdened you.
When I was a teenager, my paternal grandparents wanted to take me to see the movie Michael with John Travolta. I was 13, so perhaps needless to say, I had no interest and we didn’t go. A year later my grandmother, who I was very close to, died. I was devastated. And I can’t even tell you how many years I carried a very specific regret with me – the regret of not going to see Michael with my grandparents. It seems so silly to me now. I spent lots of time with my grandmother and we had an amazing relationship. Still, it became something that I latched onto, that I felt such immense guilt and shame about for such a long time. I don’t ever remember when I let it go, but I remember realizing, many years separated from my 14 year old self, that going to that movie with her would not have changed a thing. Not going did not make me a bad granddaughter – it made me a teenager! I could let it go. I could focus on the amazing memories and I could honor my feelings by spending more time with my loved ones in ways that felt good.
So how can you release regret so that you and your dreams can thrive?
- Make a list of things that you regret that you have carried as a heavy burden
- Explore what you have told yourself each of these things has meant about you, your relationships with others, and how you live your life
- Acknowledge how much power and energy it has zapped from you, and make the commitment to take that energy back
- Create a ceremony for releasing your regrets (one of my favorite ways to do that is to have a full moon burning)
- Treat new situations in your life not with regret but as lessons that are there to teach you about yourself and your journey
As you remove the toxin of regret from your life, you will create space for empowering thoughts instead of draining ones, and you will begin to thrive in ways you could never have imagined.
Peace, Love, and Wellness,