How to Embrace Your Regret and Move On

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” ~ Maya Angelou

Even seen or heard the slogan “No Regrets”?

On the surface, it sounds like an empowering life philosophy.

But living without regrets is like living without the ability to feel physical pain. This may seem highly desirable until you consider the fact that pain is meant to be protective. Without pain, we won’t know when something in our environment is hurting us until it’s too late. We won’t know what things we need to avoid.

When we deny our regrets, we deny ourselves valuable feedback we need to assess past decisions and inform future choices.

Regret is a sign that we are fully human. It’s an acknowledgment of the fact that we sometimes make bad decisions that negatively impact our well-being and the well-being of others. But it also means that we are capable of learning and growing from our mistakes.

The road less traveled

There are two roads you can take with regret.

The first is the dark road of rumination and self-loathing. People traveling this path mindlessly replay the situation in their minds over and over again. This causes them to feel worse about themselves.

While acknowledgment of our wrong and genuine sorrow are necessary for healing, self-defeating thoughts have no real positive value in our spiritual lives. Many people take this route when dealing with regret. It’s why regret has such a bad rap.

But there’s another path.

This one takes regret as a signal that there are important lessons to be learned from poor decisions. It challenges us to study, absorb, and apply the lessons going forward without the self-hatred or the desire to punish ourselves.

Learning to constructively deal with regret can help you turn a disastrous past and present remorse into a hopeful future.

Want to learn how to embrace your regret? Embrace the lessons. Resolve to do better once you know better. Turn the lessons learned into powerful declarative statements. Here are a few examples:

  • I will seek relationships with people who are respectful and affirming.
  • I will learn to trust my intuition.
  • I will listen to my body when it’s telling me I need rest.
  • I will say “yes” when I mean yes and “no” when I mean no.
  • I will ask for what I need.
  • I will trust in my God-given abilities and talents.
  • I will take action now instead of waiting for things to get worse.
  • I will prioritize spending time with the people I love most.
  • I will learn to keep a budget and be responsible with my money.
  • I will make time for someone who needs a listening ear.
  • I will nourish my spirit and spend more time in prayer, contemplation, and meditation.
  • I will learn to put criticism in perspective.
  • I will make peace with my flaws.
  • I will ask for forgiveness and extend it to others.
  • I will respect my body by exercising and eating right.
  • I will stop making choices that compromise my integrity.

One decision you won’t regret

When you pay attention to your regret, amazing things can happen.

You’ll learn about yourself.

If living with “No Regrets” is not all that you expected, try embracing them.

You’ll learn to love again, trust yourself again, and have fun again.

It’s never too late to learn.

It’s a decision you won’t soon regret.

  • Mark Tong

    Hi Cylon
    Even though I’m in the ‘no regrets’ camp, you make a powerful case for embracing regret in some ways. I think my only real hesitation is that I think people tend to be too self-destructive. To objectively look at regret without ending up down that whole guilt/shame rap is a tall order:)

    • Thanks Mark – I think you’re right. But I think it’s even more dangerous to ignore feelings of regret and pretend they don’t exist. Negative feelings can do a lot of damage when they go underground. I think the practice of mindfulness is so valuable in helping people face the negative aspects of their lives without being self-destructive. It is a tall order, but not insurmountable 🙂

  • Ann Davis

    Cylon, I like your affirmations. I agree with Mark on “no regret”, it helps me move on without having to hang on to a dead deal/past. Great post.

    • Thanks Ann 🙂 I would say keep that process if it works for you. The process I describe is not really about hanging on to the past, but acknowledging it in order to move on. Most people get stuck because they want to jump straight to moving on without the acknowledgement. Often what happens is that they “hang on” to unresolved bitterness without knowing it.

  • Wonderful post, Cylon! I think you make a good point here. There’s a lesson to be learned from everything. Though I guess you have to have some level of respect for yourself to be able to not get stuck in regret! 🙂

    • Thanks Camilla! Yes, this definitely takes a good dose of self-respect and courage.

  • Love this post Cylon! I will start repeating this mantra for myself: “I will listen to my body when it’s telling me I need rest.” Thank you 🙂

  • Leanne Janzen

    Thank-you! The perspective is one I agree with and definitely need reminding from time to time. However the list, of statements at the end, makes it specific and concrete, something I can feel and learn and sink my teeth into. thank-you for those words…words of truth and wisdom, well earned wisdom.

    • Leanne, I’m so glad you found this post practical and I appreciate your kind words 🙂