How to deal with Regret

‘How to deal with Regret’… Regrets may mean you have not been able to reach your personal standards or maybe you have not been able to sync with them. I suggest people to get over the guilt, learn from the incorrect decisions, forgive yourself and move forward. 


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Whether or not the poet Robert Frost regretted his decision of not travelling the other road in the poem, we do not know. We can only surmise it to be somewhat a regret by the ‘sigh’. 

Regrets are a part and parcel of every person’s life. Even the most decisive people in the world would swear that they have regretted about some decision or the other at some point of time in their life. Then it inflicts them with a sense of loss- loss of opportunities which, perhaps would have given them a better life or at least some better prospect. Before we go deeper into this bizarre psychological ongoing that is capable of inflicting ourselves with pain, let us see what it is in reality.

This article ‘How to deal with regret‘ touches on this topic in brief. For more on the issue, please consult a related professional…


What is Regret?

Regret is a strong human emotion that is experienced by people when the outcome of an action or decision turns out to be worse than a predictive outcome of another choice that is foregone. Regrets for educational choices, choice of career, failed marriages, romantic relationships, missed opportunities among others can be witnessed which can have either a positive and motivating effect or a negative impact that can lead to even depression. 


How does Regret cause Negativity and Depression

How many times has it happened that you felt- “What if I would have chosen the other person as my life partner?” Or “O! If I had not been so impulsive at that time, I would have been somewhere much better than where I am today.” 

Take it this way: Regrets are natural, big or small. At times you may regret not choosing the other educational stream, or treading on another career path, or be regretful of such a petty thing as choosing the ‘not so perfect’ dress. Decisions related to failed marriages may cause regret and thus long term depression. 

Romantic misadventures, missed opportunities, impulsive decisions, all contribute to some kind of regret or the other, especially when times are low and you find yourself in an unstable situation. When such repentance turns into a nagging thought and painful, haunting experience it is then that regrets become detrimental. Isolation, constant conflicts with loved ones, not so successful careers- lead to worse plights and further paralysis of one’s constructive, cognitive domain of thought. Learn to deal with regret. Seek help wherever needed.


When do we Regret?

Have you ever noticed, the more options and opportunities you get in life, the more flustered you tend to be and then think over the decision you have taken later. Invariably and ironically such dilemmatic situations crop up in life at critical junctures, making you overthink later as to whether you took the right decision and regret if you faced a bad outcome. However, it is also possible to learn from our incorrect decisions and move forward. 

So how do you get over these difficult emotions and live life to the fullest? Here are some strategies to help you deal with regrets and take them as stepping stones to a better future…


1/7. Accept the Fact

“To err is human’ and to have regrets is natural. Do not keep aside those negative feelings of regret just because you wish to pose in front of others that you are happy. 

Instead of saying ‘I do not have any regrets’, accept the fact that you have done certain actions which did not yield good results but there is always scope for taking a better decision in future. For instance, if you regret not spending time with your children when they were young because you gave more priority to your job, contemplate on ways of sparing quality time with them, strike a conversation and bridge the gap even if they have grown up.


2/7. Focus on growth

Regretful attitudes can become pernicious when we stop growing and turn hesitant towards making a move towards the same aspect. You need to get over them first by accepting and then taking the bold step of moving ahead. 

If you had made a wrong career choice, do not muse and repent on what you got out of it. Instead, chalk out a better career path- something which interests you and will make you happy and focus on ways how you would be make the best of it. 

Remember, there are always two sides to the same coin- nothing can be all bad and the positive side of the decision you took was it presented better opportunities or ideas in front of you. And now is your turn to work on them.


3/7. Do not be Obsessed

‘I could have done better if I would have seized the opportunity and gone abroad at that time’ or ‘’How I wish I wouldn’t have listened to them and taken the decision’- well actions may not always reap good outcomes but we do not have a time machine to go back and fix those actions. 

So why get obsessed and chastise yourself again and again to inflict more pain? Isn’t it better to make the most of the things you have with you now, than to nag about the past? Learn how to deal with regret and stop overthinking.


4/7. Give yourself Time

 Whether the regret is a short time regret of not getting your keys before leaving the house or a comparatively long term one such as choosing the Science Stream instead of Commerce or Humanities in your higher grades just because your parents wanted you to do so, give yourself some time for the regret to seep in. 

Do not just brush aside those thoughts for those will recur again. Instead, let those regretful thoughts make you crazy temporarily so that they do not return again to harass you.


5/7. Strengthen yourself

 Every person will have something or someone to fall back on. Regrets cannot take the better of you if you know how to make the most of the things you have got in life. 

Look around for friends and close ones who can be your support, talk it out with them and share your feelings of regrets. If you are the “Anne Frank” type, just write a letter to yourself on how you regret your decisions and how you plan to overcome it. 


6/7. Distract Yourself and Create a New Goals

 Just ruminating on what did not happen and what better could have happened, try setting new goals for yourself. Nurture a hobby, take an active part in your children’s life and pamper yourself, instead of dwelling on the conflicts that are going on in your life, either with your spouse or your parents. 


7/7. Understand the Cause of the Regrets

At times contemplating on certain questions and introspecting helps in tiding over the regrets. Ask yourself questions like “If I would have acted differently, would the consequences have made a marked difference in my life?”, “Was there anything else that contributed to that action that I took?”, “Did the situation make me wiser and respond to similar situations in a more strategic way?” 

Answering these questions will make you analyse your responses better and help you take more thoughtful steps in future.


How to Deal with Regret

Let your regrets and emotions work by themselves, the more you try to hold on to them, the more they will trap you in their vicious cycle. Give them time to heal, learn to cope with them every time they tend to poke you with their malicious stings and challenge them by showing that you know how to move ahead. 

Remember, each one of us have been victims of regrets and it is only for you to understand that you cannot go back and undo your past, but you can definitely shape your future by learning from your past decisions. 


Learn how to deal with regret, own the decisions you have taken in life. Don’t sit and mope. All you can do is continue to move forward, whether the decision was correct or incorrect. Set your own pace and keep moving…


Related article…

[1] The stages of Grief. Accepting the unaccepted…

Aashish Nanda

The information provided on this website is intended for general reading purpose ONLY. Please do not use this information to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. Please consult a professional, in case you need any advice...

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