Regrets plague us all, whether it’s in our career, our relationships, or any other decision we won’t be bragging about at our next school reunion. If it’s dealing a sharp blow to our self-esteem, or it keeps us tossing and turning at night, ‘what if?’ is a question which is always in the back of our minds.
But when we are too busy looking back at the past, how can we focus on what really matters: right now?
Mistakes that have been made, or actions not taken, are by no means easy to process and move on from, but by taking control of the memories and making the choice to move on, we can finally learn to let go. We are the only ones that can move on from what has happened; the pain will not pass without our permission.
The ball is now in our court
There is no easy route to relieving the pains of the past. Time does heal everything, but the only way to enact this release is by making the choice to let go. We need to understand that we don’t want to co-exist with the pain of our regrets, that we want a life free of the hurt.
Even if the regret at the time was not in our control, the ball is in our court now. We can’t change what has happened, but we can change how we respond and process it, which is central to eventually moving forward.
Express your emotions
Having nagging regrets in the back of our minds is a well-known cycle. We block out the emotions for long enough until they boil over, and rather than deal with the feelings we neglect, we suppress it all over again. When we make the choice to let go, we must face our emotions first.
Whether it’s those towards others, or even towards ourselves, just get it all out. Ways to pursue this could include venting to a friend over a coffee, or maybe writing yourself a letter. And by being in touch with these emotions, you can help create a shift away from negative thoughts in the future. You can understand and change your emotions in the moments you need it, and leave your regrets behind in a journal, or in the dregs of a coffee cup.
If the occasion arises when we do look back, we can easily identify the emotions again, process them, and move on as quickly as the thought arises, but confronting these emotions can only take us so far. We face a far greater challenge in forgiving ourselves.
When we become stuck in a rut of pain, forgiving others is hard enough. We can admit that we don’t agree with what happened, but we forgive anyway, and then we can move on. But forgiving ourselves, by acknowledging not only that we regret what we did but that we can accept it, is key to accessing and addressing the pain.
Unfortunately, forgiving ourselves is a greater struggle, particularly if our self-esteem has taken a hit from the regrets in the first place.
Look forward to the future
The past is a troubling subject for us all. Aside from our greater regrets, our memories are littered with thoughts of what could have been, leaving us feeling depressed and unfulfilled. But we must understand that the past was the present of a different time.
Everything happens in the present and then the moment is gone, confined to our memories. We hear enough that to really live our lives, we must live in the moment. And that’s exactly how we move on from the past. We accept that as the past, so now we can look to the future.
‘ What if?’ is about the path we could be on right now. But instead of looking back on the path we could be on now, look to a new path that you could be on in the future. Know that you can start again. You can’t change the past, but you can change right now.
Moving on is never easy. It’s not a quick decision to one day wake up and choose to forget it ever happened. We can’t block our mistakes from memory, or pretend it never happened. The more we attempt to ignore the pain, the greater it becomes. The only way to retake control of the hurt is to confront it.
Wouldn’t you rather be free of the hurt, be free to enjoy your future and actually live your life?
Life is short, so let it go.