Dwelling on past regrets may be illogical, but it is something that many people struggle with. Although you cannot change mistakes you have made, you do have the power to make the life you are living as rewarding as it can be. It is sad to think that you are missing out on the chance to live a rich existence because you are letting past errors define who you are. Once you get used to living life without regrets, you will never want to let the past weigh you down again.
Learn from your mistakes. Instead of letting your past determine an unfortunate future, learn from the mistakes you made and decide never to make them again. Perhaps one bad decision to be unfaithful to your wife resulted in a broken marriage and, eventually, divorce. Although you wish you could take back what you did, you can make the decision that if you ever get married again, you will not put yourself in a situation where you may be tempted to stray. It may be helpful to journal about what you learned from your mistake, according to Christine Hassler, life coach and professional speaker.
Find the opportunity. Although you might not think your life now holds potential for anything good, taking a closer look at your situation might reveal otherwise. Perhaps your life would have gone differently if you had not struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse during your formative years. Instead of wishing you had not made these poor choices, look at that time in your life as an opportunity to educate young people about the dangers of substance abuse. Turning adversity into opportunity and choosing not to be seen as a victim will help you move past your regrets, according to psychologist Marc Muchnick in the "Psychology Today" article "Getting Unstuck: Moving Past Regret."
Focus on the present. You are most likely feeling weighed down if all your attention goes to what you did in the past, and why you wish you had made different choices. Every time you are tempted to think about the past, immediately direct your focus to your present situation. By learning the science of thought-stopping, you will avoid feelings of anxiety and depression, according to WebMD. You will also learn to control your unwanted thoughts instead of letting them control you.
Accept what you cannot change. It is important to keep in mind that although you are free to make your choices, you are not free to choose the consequences, according to Erwin W. Lutzer, author of "Making the Best of a Bad Decision: How to Put Your Regrets behind You, Embrace Grace, and Move toward a Better Future." The decisions you made in the past were ones you thought were the best for you, and there was no way to know what kind of effect they would have on you in the long run. Instead of beating yourself up or asking "what if?" questions, accept the fact that you cannot change the decisions you made -- only your response to your life now.
- Psychology Today: Getting Unstuck: Moving Past Regrets
- Making the Best of a Bad Decision: How to Put Your Regrets behind You, Embrace Grace, and Move toward a Better Future; Erwin W. Lutzer, page iv
- WebMD: Mental Health Center
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