Regret is a dangerous thing.
It can lock us into a close relationship with the past, which we cannot control, and it can center our focus on mistakes rather than making change.
I get it, a mindful perspective tells us to stay in the present and not concern ourselves with the past, and society tells us it’s kind of cool to have no regrets. One of these is ideal but probably not practical, and the other is selfish and stupid.
We all have regrets, because there are things we should have done differently.
Regrets can be something we learn from or something that consumes us and weighs us down. Learning something from them is always better.
When I look at the things I truly regret all of them are related to other people. I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life, I’ve wrecked some cars, I’ve made terrible financial and educational choices, I’ve seen Limp Bizkit in concert and I thought Hyperion Bay was going to be a big hit, but the only things that really stick with me are things involving others, so this is where I’ve centered the changes I’ve tried to make.
But here’s the thing: regrets can prompt us to make changes, but they can also give us an excuse wallow in how we feel and expect sympathy for it.
If our regrets lock us down or cause us to feel sorry for ourselves, aren’t we really just investing in more regrets down the road? Are we really sorry for what we’ve done or are we still thinking about ourselves?
A lot of people have a hard time learning to apologize, and that’s a good start, but too many of us stop there. I know that when I first started acknowledging my mistakes and apologizing I was pretty sure I was a Buddha, but that was only the first step. We have to get to a point where we stop doing the things we are apologizing for in the first place and evolve as people.
Regret without change is useless. Apologizing without doing something different is useless. Realizing you’ve made mistakes only to make them again is useless.
We can’t expect other people to offer us sympathy for things we have done to ourselves and other people, we just do something different and move on. Regrets don’t make us cool or tragic, this isn’t a movie.
What are the things you wish you’d done differently?
What are the things you are doing now that you will regret down the road?
What would happen if you changed them before you regretted them?
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I write, podcast and make videos about living in freedom through mindfulness, intentionality, compassion, and equanimity.
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