No More Shouldas, Couldas, or Wouldas

Raise your hand if you’ve never regretted anything you’ve ever said or done. If your hand is raised, you are a very unusual person! Regret is a universal feeling that the vast majority of us struggle with on occasion. Most folks can think of things they would do differently… if given the chance.

It’s perfectly normal and natural to feel regret now and again, but experiencing an endless cycle of regret is NOT okay. In fact, research has shown that people who carry lots of regret around with them through life often face added health issues, become depressed more easily, have trouble sleeping, and even find it difficult to concentrate at times.

Thankfully, advancing age sometimes brings a perspective that may help thwart the heavy influence regret can have over us. Often, as we get older, we’re able to see ourselves, our expectations, and the goals we set for ourselves in a more realistic light. With advancing age, we get better at accepting our own limitations, imperfections, and the things we can’t control or change. We come to understand and own the fact that we are ONLY human and NOT super beings with the power to redo the past or “scale tall buildings in a single bound.”

While it’s impossible to change things that have already taken place, one of the really wonderful things about human beings is that we have the ability to learn from our mistakes…. and we can decide not to repeat them. Best of all, we have the power to let go of negative feelings and move on from them so we can make the most of and enjoy our imperfect, well-intended lives.

A few helpful suggestions to help banish regret...

  • End the whirlpool of regret. Reprogram yourself to feel, acknowledge, and accept feelings of regret and then consciously let them go and move on from them. Unless there’s something you can do about the situation, do not hold on to a regretful situation or carry it into the future with you. Crumble it up like a used piece of paper and throw it away.

  • Learn from past mistakes. If you gather insight from something, even something you regret, it can then become a productive learning experience. Many important life lessons are learned thanks to a mistake. Look for lessons in your missteps and appreciate the wisdom you gain from them.

  • Take action when it matters. Ask yourself if a regret is actually a message telling you that there’s something you need to do, say, or change to help you move forward in life. Perhaps your regret is actually more of a push than a pull. Don’t let age hold you back from taking a step that leads you to a better place emotionally.

  • Don’t be harder on yourself than you are on everyone else. Do not beat yourself up for things you would excuse or accept in someone else. Your friends and loved ones have certainly made mistakes that you do not hold on to… so let go of your mistakes as well.

  • Say “I’m sorry” when it’s warranted. If your regret is over something you feel you should apologize for, do it. Say the words with sincerity and see what happens. The weight you’ve been carrying on your shoulders may ease up or perhaps disappear completely.

  • Be realistic. Remember that you are but one tiny speck of paint on the canvas of humanity. Almost any mistake you could possibly have made in life is probably miniscule in relationship to the bigger picture.

  • Seek help if regret overwhelms you. You do not have to carry the burden and pain of living with constant regret. Help is available. Speak with your doctor.

Let's find all the joy in aging. It fuels the spirit!

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