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Recovering From Regret

Perfectionists live in an imaginary, unrealistic world because we cannot possibly control every last detail to ensure ideal results all the time. Oftentimes things in life are flawed and imperfect, and you may not be able to change that. But what you can alter is your response. 


Look at life as an ocean. You cannot control the ocean but you can control how you react to it. With the right skills you can navigate across it in such a way that you sail toward your desired destination. Disappointment and regret happen to the best of us, just as seasoned sea captains occasionally encounter a squall and may even have to jump ship to keep from going down. You will experience setbacks and regrets in life in the same way. But if you behave as a perfectionist that makes you rigid – and unyielding objects snap and break more easily. You’ll become paralyzed by failure if you are not able to adapt to what’s happening and accept your own human flaws and limitations.


If it doesn’t bend a little during a storm a mast will break. Be forgiving of yourself and your human imperfections, otherwise you’ll crack under the weight of your regret and go down with the ship, drowning in an ocean of anguish. The storm will pass, so remain agile and flexible and let the voyage continue.


Acknowledge that mistakes were made – Rather than blaming yourself or others, save yourself a lot of time and energy and simply acknowledge the role played by uncontrollable circumstances. If an opportunity does not work out the way you thought it would, try to recognize what kind of error or event prevented it and learn from that. If the cause was something beyond your control then no matter what course of action you might have taken the results would have still been the same.


Put a positive spin on life – Whatever missed opportunity you faced, know that it is not the end of the world. Be grateful for what you have in life. Pause and reflect on all the good things in your life and all the things you have to be thankful for, taking a mental and emotional inventory of them. Try to reframe your experience of lost opportunity in a different way that lets you find some good in it. Maybe you fell in love with a cool looking car and were too impatient to wait until your mechanic could have a chance to look under the hood, so you wound up buying a lemon. At least now you know how to be a more savvy consumer, and that carries over to help you no matter what you’re planning to purchase. Choose to learn from a positive perspective, in other words, rather than dwelling on what went wrong. The choice is yours, so pick the path of positivity and empowerment.  


Get back to work – After you’ve taken a break to reflect on your lost opportunity it is time to get back to work. The test of character is not how hard someone falls but how quickly they get back up on their feet. Whatever regrets you have, don’t allow them to haunt you for life. Unforeseen events and circumstances happen to everyone, but those who overcome those trials and tribulations are the ones who will eventually emerge successful.

Everyone has done something in their past that can be interpreted as regrettable, and it is good to feel some modicum of sincere regret in the wake of that kind of event. Those feelings help you to learn from the experience and improve yourself. But don’t overdramatize regrets or you will give them more power than warranted. Just remember that oftentimes our worst mistakes are stepping stones to success, but only for those who are able to leave their regrets behind them and continue their journey onward and upward.


Moving Forward

We are all human and we will get mad at ourselves or others and feel bad when we experience regret. But the key to moving forward in a healthy and positive way is to respond to those bitter feelings in a manner that doesn’t amplify them or avoid them, but successfully resolves them.

One of the best ways to move forward from regret is to keep busy working toward new goals and opportunities. Focusing on the tasks at hand gets your mind off of your regrets and back into the game. If you don’t have a chance to sit around and let your mind harbor regret then you’ll have a much easier time of it, and the negative impact of regret on your life will be substantially lessened. But inactivity and idleness will magnify the weight of your regret because you will meditate on it until it obscures the whole landscape of your mind.


Many people work on totally eliminating every last remnant of regret, but to completely rid yourself of regret is impossible. If you missed an opportunity in the past and you regret your actions, then it is only natural that you will experience some form of regret. But trying to remove every last trace of it will just make you more hyperaware of its presence. A better approach is to just put a positive spin on that regret by taking the learning experience from it. Consider your regrettable episode as tuition paid in the school of life. Accept your diploma and chalk it up to a good lesson learned the hard way that will help you take better advantage of opportunities in the future. 


Never give up, because within every mistake we make there is also the potential for profound self-discovery. Failure to seize an opportunity once doesn’t mean that we won’t get another shot at it later – and even if we fail multiple times to reach a goal that doesn’t make it unattainable in the future. Capitalize on the beneficial education afforded to you by the regrettable experience because then you’ll be better prepared to seize the opportunity that eluded you if it comes back around later in life.


Keep in mind that accomplishing your immediate objectives is often only one small part of the total experience, because what really matters is the lessons you learn that contribute to your own self realization. At the end of the day, experience gained and lessons learned is what is most important for becoming successful, and that cannot be overemphasized!


“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”~Alexander Graham Bell

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