Regret is one of the worst feelings. Not just because of the actual feeling it gives you, but because it’s one of the feelings where you end up being very hard on yourself. It’s a choice to look backward and wishes you had done it differently, rather than just embracing what is.
That sounds a little philosophical, but there’s a reason for that: regret is self-imposed punishment. It’s one of the bad feelings that we really put on ourselves. You can only control your reaction to things, you’re not necessarily able to control the things that actually happen.
Once you start looking at regret as something you do to yourself, rather than something that happens to you, you’ll be in much better shape to accept the events of the past and generally just feel better. It’s not an easy viewpoint to have, so here are several reasons you should never have any regrets.
Having Regret Doesn’t Help Anything
There is not one single recorded event in history where having a regret has made the event of the past change or disappear. Regret is something that is felt after an event has occurred – even if it is right away. It also only lives in your head because you allow it to.
When you look back at the moments of history where a change occurred, none of them involved regret. Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong, and Nelson Mandela didn’t use regret to accomplish their goals. They used action.
Once you realize that regret cannot possibly help the current situation, you’ll begin to realize what a waste it is. It’s best to forgive and forget than to regret.
You Can’t Change the Past
As of the writing of this article, time travel doesn’t exist. Regrets are often dwelling on the past, which does no good if you can’t change the past. Which you can’t. Until we can actually travel back to change our actions or take advantage of opportunities, it doesn’t make much sense to dwell on it. There are enough things that are about to happen in the future, and you should put your energy into those events.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore the past completely. You can certainly look back, recognize the moment, but then it’s time to move on.
There’s actually a technique you can use to help you with your regrets that involve going back in time in your mind. It essentially involves going back to the moment you regret, dealing with it, and leaving. The point is to set you free from the regret you were feeling.
Even if we could go back and change the past, it’s not always something we should do. Every little event in your life is a chain reaction. Certain things that happen in your life that is good may only be possible because of the moments you would otherwise regret.
Even Bad Decisions Teach You Something
Everything happens for a reason. This is often looked at like there’s a grand plan in life. However, it can relate more to the fact that everything that happens to you is a learning experience. Experience can only be gained by having experiences – good or bad.
When you make a decision you think is bad, you may not realize it at the time. The only reason you realize it is that the outcome wasn’t as desired. This is why you know it was not a good decision: you learned this by experiencing it.
This is called experiential learning and is one of the most effective ways to actually learn something. It sticks much better when you experience something instead of just reading or hearing about it. Events have a powerful impact on our lives – more than a book or movie could.
Once you’re able to look back at past events as teaching experiences, you’ll be able to accept them much easier if they didn’t go your way. There are no bad decisions, just experiences.
You Made the Best Decision at the Time
They say hindsight is 20/20. It’s really easy to look back at an incident with clarity and wonder what the heck you were thinking. It’s never quite that simple. As we mentioned above, you have to assume you made the best decision at the time.
You’re a smart individual, and you need to assume you made the best decision possible with the information you had at the time. It’s usually only once you know the result that you realize a different decision would have been better. This is where regret creeps in.
If you’re able to convince yourself that the decision was the best option at the time, you’re less likely to think about going back and getting a do-over. You need to trust in your past self and understand you did the best with the information you had at the time.
It’s Better for Your Mental Health
Regrets can have a very real impact on your health, both mentally and physically. Worrying about the past and having regrets will mess with your hormone levels, and cause undue stress – which we know impacts health.
Your mental health is also important. It’s important to develop good habits for mental health so that you don’t get caught up dwelling on regrets and having it affect you as time goes on. Long term worrying about regrets can really give you a cynical view on life. Why do this to yourself when it’s avoidable?
Ultimately, having regrets doesn’t offer any value to your life. The experiences themselves, good or bad, are what will shape who you are. Use the tips above to help avoid feeling regretful, and you’ll be much better off.