Regret is one of the most powerful negative emotions. It traps you in the past and prevents you from moving forward unfettered and free. This article is an excerpt from my book How to own your CAR. It outlines 7 practical steps that will help you face, deal with and overcome regret. I hope to inspire you to strive to live a full life.
1. Accept the shock you feel when something painful has happened. The first thing you will face about any regret is the shock that it happened. It is always something that was unexpected like a friend or companion betraying you. It hurts, like a sword piercing through your heart. The shock leaves you jolted, with an unnerving air of disbelief. But the truth is it happened, embrace that truth and accept the reality.
2. Confront the denial that something painful or disappointing happened. As the regret festers, denial lingers like a dark cloud. Call it disbelief, doubt or denial, it is simply a matter of all your faculties refusing to accept the reality that something happened. This happens in traumatic events and in normal unexpected events. For an example, someone you thought would say yes said no and rejected your offer. Choose to confront and challenge the disbelief and denial daily with the intent to release the hurt.
BREATHE OUT THE HURT: It is time to let go of the past and accept the inevitability of change. Prepare yourself for a future without whatever you have lost. Remember that your mind, soul and body will resist the idea of losing something. Our natural intent is to preserve and protect what is familiar and comfortable no matter what it looks or feels like. Change is every second of time ticking away, an opportunity for rebirth. Each time you breathe in you may remember the hurt. So every time you breathe out choose to release it.
3. Be aware and open your eyes to the possibilities of tomorrow that are all around you. The one thing I love about mornings is that they are always new and fresh. Every day nature offers us a new beginning. Remember that we all have to start somewhere even when starting again. It doesn’t matter how far you have walked down the track of life, the world is still a place of possibility.
4. Accept what is around you. The past is gone, the present is opening up before you and the future remains unwritten and uncharted. Uncover it, embrace it and pursue it. You are the main actor in the story unfurling this very moment and the world is waiting for your next move.
5. Embrace the challenge of something new. It may be something that runs against the grain of who you thought you were or what you thought would happen but it is something new, something fresh. Whatever has happened to you, however you have changed, the true potency of the human spirit is to embrace new challenges and change. You are actually stronger than you think because you are hardwired and coded to survive and thrive.
BREATHE IN POSSIBILITY: Find someone close to you to help you change. If you have no one then take out the story of your future self and remind yourself where you want to be tomorrow. The future is unwritten and it is brimming with possibility. Find stories and things that provide you with emotional support and encouragement. Put yourself in a position of learning. Everything that happens, happens for a reason. Put things around you that help you to move forward, tools, objects, people and systems that encourage you to move forward.
6. Assimilate the new: transformation only happens when you replace an old way of thinking with a new one. The brain is an amazing learning tool. Because of its plasticity it can be reshaped by new knowledge and patterns of thought. The past doesn’t have to be a prison for your future. To do that, make the present the doorway to something new. Remember, change is a slow process so as you take the new, some of the old will linger. Moments of transition are like a butterfly and caterpillar stuck in the same cocoon.
7. Search for new opportunities and chart a course for discovery. The world is like an ocean and your life is like a ship about to set sail. Treat the past like a lonely island you’ve been stuck on. Stop your mind from replaying past failures and hangups again and again. Now is the time to look ahead into the horizon. It is time to pick a course and set sail for the new world out there, because something fresh is waiting for you.
Breathe in and out new experiences: Change can be a nightmare or a sweet dream, it is a matter of perspective. Fight and contend for new ways and perspectives. Set aside time to reflect and meditate. Reflect on change and learn how to improve the new thing you have discovered. Reinforce new pathways of thinking in your brain, Buttress new habits with continual practice or action. Celebrate the privilege and opportunity you have every day to breathe by doing something challenging and new.