Not every sentence that begins with ‘what if’ ends in regret or guilt, but many of them do. It has been my experience that regret and guilt are luxuries I can’t afford if my goal is to move forward in life. Regret robs us of our ability to move beyond the experience we regret. It prohibits us from looking to the future and moving on to whatever experience is next in our lives.
I’m not the expert on moving past regret (or an expert on anything… except maybe Jeeps and Star Wars), but I have come to realize regret is not only not heathy, but unhealthy. I have found. These three techniques useful when moving past my own regret:
- What could have happened isn’t what happened. This is simple, yet critical. The what ifs are where we are. What happened has happened and wishing for another outcome that hasn’t happened and at this point, can’t happen is wasted time and energy. Accept the reality of where you are right now. Work with it. Figure out how to make the best of the reality you are in. My favorite band, Celldweller, on his second album has a song called ‘The Best It’s Gonna Get‘ and this is the outlook we bed to have. This is it. This is the best it’s gonna get. This is what I have to work with and it makes more sense to make the most out of what I have rather than wishing I had something else.
- It isn’t all bad. So things didn’t go the way I wanted, planned, hoped or maybe I totally screwed the pooch on this one. Ok. What can I learn from this? Where is the upside here? How can I learn from this and make better choices in the future? How can I use this experience to grow and become a better person? Regret keeps me from learning and growing and moving on to something else, potentially better.
- The past doesn’t define my future. This experiences, usually mistakes are not definitive of who I am and who am becoming. I am not defined by my past experiences whether good or bad. What defines me is bigger than any action or non-action I could have or should have made. What defines you is also bigger than what you have done. Find the bigger, more complete definition of who you are and use that to define every aspect of you life. My life is defined, that is to say my identity comes from, by the love of a Savior who was willing to die for me. Are you willing to look to a Savior for you identity?
What are you regretting today that you need to let go of?