Updated: Apr 29, 2021
“The past is a great place and I don’t want to erase it or to regret it, but I don’t want to be its prisoner either.”
One day, it hits you. You wish you had done things differently in life. You think about all of the missed opportunities, bad decisions, mixed-up priorities, and the mistakes that resulted in your biggest regrets. Some weigh heavier than others, but regret can be a tricky piece of emotional baggage to carry around.
No matter how powerful, wise or successful you are, you cannot change the past.
You can, however, change your perceptions about what you did or didn’t do, and use your experiences – even your biggest regrets – as insightful tools to steer your future in the right direction.
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST REGRETS?
Regret can be a complicated feeling to process because it is multi-pronged. It can intertwine sorrow, disappointment, anger and guilt. As if that weren’t enough, regret is a self-directed emotional reaction – and we are often our own worst critics, harshest judges and worst enemies.
Recognizing what bothers you the most about your past choices is the first step in embracing them as a catalyst for change.
Many people regret not taking the time to figure out “what they want to be when they grow up.” Sometimes it’s faster, easier and/or cheaper to jump at an opportunity that presents itself, especially when accompanied by the lure of a healthy paycheck.
“It’s never too late” is not a platitude.
Many successful, well-known entrepreneurs, authors and celebrities switched career paths later in life.
Take action: If working in a mismatched career is one of your biggest regrets, do something about it – now! Never assume that a career change is impossible – at any age. Even the seemingly impossible obstacles (“I can’t afford to go back to school” or “I have a degree in biology; no one will hire me to work in marketing”) can often be overcome. If you’re contemplating a career shift, do the research. Are certain credentials required? How competitive is the industry? Is this career better aligned with your talents, personal values or style?
BUILDING A SECURE FINANCIAL FUTURE
If you believed that saving was something you did with “extra money,” it probably didn’t take long to realize that those two words don’t usually belong together. People tend to adjust their lifestyles to their income levels, and spend accordingly.
Because of the invincible nature of youth, few of us think about the “what if’s” until they’re here.
Expensive things happen – including layoffs and other situations like the current pandemic that can lead to a disruption in your income stream.
If not having enough money socked away in some form of savings is one of your biggest regrets, you are not alone.
Take action: Create a budget, and include “savings” as a mandatory expense. In fact, pay yourself first. Whether you set up a retirement account and enjoy the tax benefits, invest in the securities markets or simply open and consistently add to a bank savings account, “better late than never”
I always honoured myself first every time I got a paycheck or some extra money.I took out 10% of that amount and kept it aside , first in a piggy bank and later in a separate bank account. I haven't used that money for years and there will never be a need to use it . As that money attract more money to me from all directions.
Magical But True. Try it for yourself.
Honour yourself first.
Devoting too much time to your career is a common regret for men and women alike. Many women find that, because of the amount of time and energy they spent on their career, they’re not where they had hoped to be in their personal lives (married, with children, etc.). Many men say, in hindsight, that they missed being involved in their kids’ lives, having prioritized professional results (work and paycheck) over personal relationships (family).
Take action: The beautiful thing about balance is that it’s dynamic. The scales can be tipped in either direction, often with little effort. Lost time cannot be reclaimed, but you can move forward with a commitment to prioritize your time differently. Do what it takes – pick up the phone, arrange a visit, or try to create a clearer boundary between home and work by “unplugging.”
Focus on what’s really important. Project into the future by imagining that you’re on your death bed – what do you regret? Not spending enough time traveling and seeing the world? Not making enough time to date and find a partner? Not making yourself a priority in your own life?
Regardless of the subject of your regret, one of the most powerful ways to gain a greater sense of balance is through the practice of mindful meditation.
STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Often, life’s biggest regrets are the direct result of staying in your comfort zone. While it can seem like the logical – or in some cases, the only – choice, many people plant roots in the same place as their parents and siblings. many of us – including yours truly – now realize that we can do our jobs from anywhere and therefore, live where ever we like.
Perhaps you admonish yourself for not taking greater advantage of your high school or college days, when there were seemingly endless opportunities to meet people and learn about practically anything under the sun.
As life’s circumstances change, we often don’t really know how good we had it until we don’t have it anymore. That’s a sure recipe for regret.
Take action: We live in a world that presents limitless opportunities to learn, grow, get involved, meet people and develop new skills. Taking an class or starting to learn another language are two great ways to step outside of your comfort zone.
Others include taking advantage of the many adult education opportunities offered at local community colleges, high schools and park districts. From ballroom dancing to horticulture, self-defense, or learning to speak Spanish, the possibilities to learn something new are endless.
Breaking out of your comfort zone happens the minute you make the decision to go and do!
Do you wish you had taken better care of yourself – physically or otherwise? Many people don’t worry about their health, putting work and other family members’ needs ahead of their own – until the waving of the first red flag. Neglecting your physical health and failing to manage your stress can result in myriad ailments, from insomnia to chronic pain, heart disease, diabetes and a host of other serious problems.
You don’t have to be obese or face health issues to lament not taking better care of your body. Packing on a few extra pounds becomes a harder process to reverse with age and a slowing metabolism. This can take a toll on body image and self-esteem.
Reformed addicts are quick to identify their substance abuse as one of their worst regrets in life. Perhaps you wish you could un-do damages to relationships or regain the time you lost while you struggled with addiction. Once on the other side of the addiction fence, it’s easy to say “I wish I had quit sooner,” regretting ever smoking your first cigarette, popping your first pill or having that first drink.
First, forgive yourself. Say it . Say it Loud . I forgive myself.
While true for any of life’s regrets, this may be harder in the wellness category than in any others because the consequences have the potential to be more serious. Next, start taking care of yourself. Today. Secure your own “oxygen mask” so that you have the right energy to take care of others.
Block off “me” time, even if it feels selfish. Develop healthy eating and exercise habits that are sustainable so you’ll stick with them. It may feel like it’s too hard to eat right or incorporate activity into every day, but keep in mind that success comes from the collective impact of all of the small things you do over time. So, give yourself credit for putting forth the effort – and for incremental progress.
Every time you achieve a small goal , Pat Yourself . I mean literally pat your back . You have come a long way. I am proud of you.
Think about all of the hobbies you would like to pursue if you had the time. Now think about how you end your days when you are exhausted. Most of us want to do something mindless that doesn’t require a lot of energy, so it’s little surprise that watching TV is by far the most popular use of leisure time.
However, when you spend time on a creative hobby such as music, writing or art, you’re actually boosting skills that help you in the workplace. When you give yourself some mental space, you open up room for creativity.
Take action: Although you may think you don’t have time for creative hobbies, it doesn’t take long to see the benefits. Take time out of your busy day or week to do something that feels creative and fun, without any guilt.
LETTING THE GOOD ONES GO
Often our regrets focus on past relationships in our lives, whether romantic or friendship. We may have failed to stay in touch with good friends from our youth and regret not putting forward the effort. We may regret leaving a relationship, wondering if we had endeavoured to make things work with a partner if it would have resulted in staying together.
Take action: Whether you want to reconnect to an old love or you just want to be ready for someone new, it’s important to understand what went wrong in your previous relationships. Was there fear of commitment? Did you lack the skills to transform romantic feelings to deeper love? Understanding whether your behaviours contributed to the problem can make a big difference between another relationship succeeding or failing in the future.
USE YOUR BIGGEST REGRETS AS TOOLS FOR SELF-IMPROVEMENT
Ruminating about your past is not productive, helpful or healthy. Instead of berating yourself, try a different approach. Have some compassion for the earlier versions of you. Understanding that you are not your 17-year-old self anymore can make you feel better about the wrong turns you may have made in the past.
The path to self-forgiveness involves acceptance. Stop using labels like good, bad, smart or stupid. That kind of judgment doesn’t serve you well in building your future self. The past only serves as a lesson; ruminating won’t help you grasp that lesson and, in fact, can get in the way of making better choices for your future.
Reflect on your past, and use it to create your best future possible. Make a powerful declaration that your future — effective now — will be different.
Create a new or different path for yourself, whether that means considering a career change, planning a vacation to a place you’ve always wanted to visit or making a weekly lunch date for yourself.
While life’s biggest regrets can be unpleasant to ponder, they can also provide valuable insight into the person you want to become, and the life you want to live – starting today
Remember I am proud of you.