I have wanted to do a post regarding my thoughts on ‘regrets’ for a while now, but whilst I know what I want to say in my head (kinda), I’m not confident in my ability to transfer that to text on a screen. The overall, simple premise is; try not to regret stuff.
”Thinking before acting is wisdom, but acting before thinking is regret.”
I was going to say that regret is a pretty useless emotion, but honestly, it isn’t always. If regretting something has kept you from making the same mistake in the future, then regret has taught you a lesson. However if regret prohibits you from living life, ”just incase [such and such] might happen again”, then all regret is doing is holding you prisoner in a negative, fear based existence.
Now I am not going to pretend to be well adjusted enough to say that I never fail in my scruples to dispel negative emotions, like regret, but I honestly don’t think I feel them as much as other people I personally know. And when I do, I always try use them to better my future, not taint my memories of the past.
”Never regret anything because at one point you wanted it.”
That’s not to say that there are not things in my life that I don’t still regret in a very negative and detrimental way (Read earlier disclaimer on not being perfectly well adjusted); whether it be that I wish I hadn’t said that, done that, thought that, put so much or so little time into something, continued or discontinued something etc.. but I try to limit feeling that way by asking myself a very, very simple question:
Was I listening to my gut?
For me, if I make a decision, whether it be to do something (or not), say something (or not) and I’ve based that decision off what feels right and true to me in that moment, I find I cannot look back at it with regret. I’m going to attempt to describe this as best as I can, through an example.
- Staying in a relationship that didn’t meet my end hopes/expectations.
I spent five years in a relationship with someone who, for the majority of that time, I loved and wanted to spend the rest of my years with. That relationship, for many reasons, fell apart and for quite a long time afterwards I regretted having met him at all; at having given so many years to someone who didn’t deserve that time, effort or love.
However, regretting loving someone didn’t feel like a good way to look back, and I came to realise that I didn’t regret it as acutely as I thought. I didn’t regret meeting him and having him in my life, I didn’t regret getting into a long term relationship (which happened to also be my first serious relationship) at the age of 18, I didn’t regret wanting to live with him (and living with him for a short period of time), talking about having children, experiencing so much of my formative years with him. Because when they were happening I wanted to be there, in those moments I wasn’t thinking to myself, ‘this isn’t right’, ‘I’m not happy’, ‘I don’t want to be with this person’, and because of that I cannot regret loving him and having him in my life. Because it was right and true to myself back then – it was right and true to the version of myself I have since outgrown.
”Never regret anything that made you smile.”
However, what I do regret is spending that last extra year or so with him, because I no longer loved him, I no longer wanted that future with him, really wanted it – I was stuck out of habit, we both were. We had been together for a long time, through important years, and big life experiences, and we had loved each other immensely and because of that, neither of us knew how to, and were too afraid to let go of that familiarity. But during that last year I knew neither of us where happy, we loved each other, but were not in love, and my gut kept telling me to let go, move on, for both of us to be able to find what we now wanted and needed, but I kept ignoring it. These are the occasions that I can accept regretting – because in the moment I knew better – I wasn’t listening to my gut.
This is where I have let regret teach me a lesson, a lesson that I still haven’t completely learnt or mastered yet – to let go of someone/something when you are no longer happy, when you know, in your core, that you don’t want to be with them despite being afraid to let go, for whatever reason that may be.
I hope that example has worked well enough to explain how I feel, and think about regret; how I attempt to use it to an advantage and how I find that I have so fewer regrets when I think about my choices based on how I felt in the past when making them, rather than looking at them through your (most likely) jade-coloured glasses that you find yourself wearing when something doesn’t pan out the way you had wanted, and there was the chance of a different outcome if you had taken a different path.
I really hope this post makes sense? That I have manage to convey it in a intelligible manner? I just think too many people let regrets cripple them, that they allow that anger with themselves over a coulda, woulda, shoulda situation hold them hostage. Let that go and ask yourself my little question. Does it shed a different light on it for you?
I would REALLY love to hear what your thoughts are on this subject? Whether I have maybe (hopefully) helped you be able to look back at certain things in your life without any regrets feeling so heavy.