By Paul Triggs, LMSW
Regret is defined as “sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one's control or power to repair” (Meriam-Webster, 2019). Regret is a common challenge that most people face at one time or another during their lives. For example, anytime you think back on the past and what could have happened or how things should have gone differently may lead to feelings of regret. Although, regret maybe a strong negative emotion, letting go of regret is possible if you implement these four tips.
⦁ Stop focusing on the mistake and try focusing on the lessons learned.
The benefit of shifting your thinking from what you did wrong to how this affected your decision making is a very important first step. For example, if you ate too much food at lunch and are feeling a sense of regret instead of being upset about how you feel after the meal try to focus on the point you felt satisfied. In turn, by focusing on the point you felt satisfied, your frame of thinking goes from ruminating about the point of excess to appreciating the point of pleasure.
⦁ Accept the circumstances and validate the risk.
The theory of accepting the circumstances is difficult and maybe the hardest hurdle to eliminating regret. On the other hand, if you take a chance to accept the circumstances you can look at your own role in this mistake and see if you even had an impact (Shreenivasan & Weinberger, 2018). For example, in NYC its common to arrive late to a location due to transit issues which could lead to feelings of individual regret. Although, feeling regretful about being late is a bad feeling this sometimes cannot be avoided and even on days you leave early to counteract delays unexpected issues occur and spoil your due diligence. In this case, you did everything in your power to arrive at your location on time and the negative result was out of your control.
⦁ Determine your acceptable level of satisfaction.
The benefit of deciding your acceptable level of satisfaction in the planning process will aid you to determine the minimum standards to achieve happiness. In other words, spending less time worrying about what is enough will help remove the urge to reflect on what you could have done better. Another trick to establish an acceptable level of satisfaction is ignore unimportant things that will not bring you happiness. In turn, ignoring unimportant things will help you focus on what really matters and the goal you are trying to achieve. One tool that could help with setting a baseline of an acceptable level of satisfaction is setting time limits on a task. Setting time limits on how much you are willing to invest in a project will help you identify which results were within your control and which outcomes were out of your reach (Boyes, 2016). For example, if you are attempting to complete a project at work that is difficult, set a limit each day of how much you are willing time you are realistically able to invest each day and stick to that schedule. In response, by sticking to that schedule you are establishing a boundary of acceptable performance which will help in determining what was out of your control and you can experience satisfaction for the hard work you contributed.
⦁ Believe in your ability to bounce back.
Regret after a poor outcome is a very common feeling that could happen after many different types of disappointment. For example, during life transitions most people feel regret about what they should have done and ruminate about how things could have gone differently. Although, seeing the negative side of a result has its place, try seeing the benefit of your experience and appreciate the fact that many bad decisions lack permanent consequences (Boyes, 2018). In other words, the fact that you can look back on your mistakes without having to live with the consequences proves that you did something right. In turn, making mistakes is inevitable, everyone is prone to poor periods of poor judgement but it’s not how an individual reacts to a success that makes them a champion but rather how they learn from failure.
Boyes, A. (2018). 5 Tips for Coping with Regret. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201808/5-tips-coping-regret
Boyes, A. (2016). How to Focus on What’s Important, Not Just What’s Urgent. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2018/07/how-to-focus-on-whats-important-not-just-whats-urgent
Regret. 2019. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved February 18, 2019, from https:// https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/regret