Living life with regrets is an all too familiar feeling. Sometimes we regret a toxic relationship that burned us, leaving us heartbroken. Other times we regret taking a job that wasn’t even remotely close to our dream jobs. Sometimes we have regrets about getting a meaningless tattoo, or drinking too heavily in college, or not taking a risk when we had the chance.
In its most simplistic form, a regret is a conscious, negative emotional reaction to a situation, choice, and/or opportunity. Whether you’re regretting something emotionally charged like making yourself vulnerable to heartbreak, or something more financial-related like having maxed out your credit cards on unnecessary shopping sprees, the truth remains: living life with regrets really isn’t going to get you anywhere helpful.
To help you move forward with your life and live with no regrets, follow these simple rules:
1. Identify the root of your regrets.
Understanding why you’re regretting something in the first place can help bring some perspective to why you’re carrying this negative feeling.
Are you regretful because something didn’t go your way? Is it due to something bad happening? Do you have regrets because you didn’t land on your feet? Identify why you feel regretful in an effort to set yourself free from that negativity.
2. Learn from past mistakes.
Only when you can acknowledge where you messed up, can you really create a better future for yourself. Perhaps you had a bad habit of overspending in your early twenties, and you dropped your credit score. Sure, regretting it seems like the natural feeling to have. But, what if you made this a learning opportunity instead?
Rather than dwelling on your poor budgeting skills, take this opportunity to create a new budget, stick to it, and improve your credit score. Sometimes you have to mess up to do better later. Learn from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them in the future. Regretting your mistakes won’t change anything – but learning from them will.
3. Set realistic expectations.
Like most things in life, you might have a vision of how you expect something to be. Maybe you think college will be an empowering, amazing experience but in actuality you’re overtired and overworked. Perhaps you imagine living on your own is going to be freeing, but you actually feel lonely and are broke. Should you regret going to college or moving out on your own just because they weren’t as wonderful as you imagined in your head? Of course not. Try to set your expectations appropriately. Don’t oversell moving to a new city. Don’t let yourself get too excited about starting a new job.
When you reel your emotions in, you are being realistic and will have fewer regrets later. That’s not to say these life milestones aren’t exciting, because they are. Just be realistic about them all.
4. Listen to others.
Isn’t it too true that your elders are older and wiser? Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, bosses, coaches, teachers, and other people who influence you throughout your lifetime have probably already been down the road you’re traveling. They’ve made the same mistakes you’re about to make and can help lead you in a different direction.
That isn’t to suggest you should let others make choices for you – but remain open to learning from those around you. Doing so might save you from heartbreak, making a bad choice, or any other future regrets that could burden you. You don’t have to learn every lesson the hard way, firsthand. Accept advice from others and it could spare you from having regrets. You may learn some new things about yourself or from the different perspectives others offer, which could help you leave your comfort zone and let go of a little thing you’ve held on. Often we share a common regret, and different people have things they do to shift their perspective that may help you move past even your seemingly biggest regret.
5. Accept that you’re a work-in-progress.
Life is not simplistic. It’s not as straightforward as going to college, graduating, falling in love, finding your dream job, getting married, starting a family, and so on. There’s tons of trial and error. The best way to live without regrets is to let go of any past regrets and work on being in the present moment. At the end of your life, you don’t want to have any feelings of regret.
You take leaps of faith that certain things might work out, and pick yourself back up when they don’t. You’re a work-in-progress, just like the rest of us. That doesn’t mean you regret your choices when you stumble and fall. The trip-ups or “mess-ups’ aren’t necessarily a bad thing or the only things to focus on. You celebrate the good times, reflect on the bad ones, and remember this plain truth: every single choice, opportunity, and situation has the power to teach you something. Cheers to that!
Having regrets paralyzes you. It makes you feel stuck, unhappy, and focusing way too much on the past. Regrets won’t serve you long-term. Even if you really do wish you could undo a past action or choice, how would doing so help you where you are today? It won’t, plain and simple. Do your best to set yourself free. There are different ways to Live life regret free, but the good news is that once you start working on it you will see how good it feels!