September 21, 2011

clearing the slate of regret

The emotion regret doesn't serve us well.

It is possible to look back on an action you have taken with a lens of 'well, I wish I had done that differently'.  You can take the point of view that hindsight sometimes shows opportunities for having done something better, but you did the best you could at the time.  You can move forward with lessons learned and without any regret.

Sometimes, though, the feeling of regret takes over.  Perhaps the action you took had a significant impact, and the outcome was far removed from what you wanted. Maybe people or things you cared about were impacted. Perhaps an opportunity was lost.

Regret can drag you down.  It eats away at the energy and drive you need to keep moving forward with the best you have to offer.  That in itself is a compelling reason for clearing it away when you become aware of it.

How can you be at peace so you can move on and not be dragged down?  Here are three things that I find helpful:
  1. Choose an attitude about the situation that works for you.  Such as, 'I meant well, but I made a mistake.  I won't do it again.'  You could focus on what you learned from it.
  2. If someone was impacted by your actions, you can choose to communicate with them about it.  You could let them know that you understand your actions affected them, apologize, and commit to something for the future.
  3. Write down some thoughts, such as what you learned from the situation.  To quote the Dalai Lama:  'When you lose, don't lose the lesson'.  Much learning comes from things that you would do differently with hindsight.  Be grateful for the opportunity you had to learn.
Each of us has our own way of clearing the slate for ourselves.  What are the things that you do to move forward?