Now, am I saying I have no regrets in my perfectly perfect life? Absolutely not. There are things I wish I hadn’t said, frogs I wish I hadn’t kissed, princes I wish I hadn’t let go, jars of peanut butter I wish I hadn’t eaten, and all sorts of things that, given the opportunity to go back and do it over again (knowing then, of course, what I know now) I’d absolutely do differently. But that doesn’t mean I regret having done them.
As an obvious example, I spent almost a decade of my life pursuing a job as a professional actor. It has had consequences – I’m still behind the eight ball as far as my career and compensation go. But what I learned in that decade, especially as it regards rejection, is invaluable. The benefits of that choice, for the most part, outweigh the costs.
So my guiding principles are: first, aim to live a mindful, well-considered life. Time and energy are precious, so I don’t want to fling them away on nothing. Then second, learn from my choices. What do they mean for me going forward? What will I do differently? How will I change and grow? If I can do this 80% of the time, I’m golden.
However, there are people who have thought about this far more than I have. Martha Beck, a popular and incredible life coach, is one of them. Her advice for “regret-proofing” your life is this:
1. Get past denial. Denial is thinking “this shouldn’t have happened” or “if only…” This only serves to make you more miserable.
2. Separate the feelings. Regret is usually a combo of anger and sadness and if you can articulate what’s making you sad and what’s making you angry, you can let go of them faster.
3. Grieve what’s lost. Take the time to let go of the sadness.
4. Identify and seek out what you were hoping to get. What has regret forced you to give up? And how can you get that back into your life?
5. Analyze your anger. Listen to it for instructions. Talk it out or write it out.
6. Learn to lean towards love. When we make choices based on love, they are harder to regret. At your next choice point, make the decision that is most loving.
You can read her whole article here. I’m betting you won’t regret it.