15 Ways to Live and Learn From Regret | It's Me Laura Lee

August 29, 2019

15 Ways To Learn And Grow From Our Regrets

WHY I ADMIT TO HAVING REGRETS

Living without regrets seems to be the new holy grail.  I hear it touted often.  No one wants to seem to admit he or she has regrets.  Live life fully…have no regrets.

I’m here to tell you that I have lots of regrets.  Probably too many to count…not that I’m into counting them.  I’m not.  Well, not all of them, and, I don’t recommend doing so, but there are several that come to mind without a second thought.

Saying you don’t have regrets is avoiding the truth. The truth is that we all have, at one time or another in our lives, said or done something, that was wrong, hurtful, or dangerous.  So, why do we have a hard time admitting that we have regrets?  Likely, it’s because we perceive admitting regrets as admitting failures. And worse, personal failures.  Personal flaws.  But regrets don't have to be failures.

Having regrets can also be living in the past and we don’t want to live in the past…or the future.  We want to be mindful and live in the present.  So, why do I say we should have them?  Because we can’t be mindful and live in the present unless we first acknowledge the past instead of trying to sweep it under the rug and act like it doesn't exist..left to fester.

Everyone will have different regrets. Those regrets can range from how well they applied themselves in high school – which may mean not having career opportunities that others seem to have. It may mean experimenting with drugs and alcohol that led to addictions that resulted in divorce or the loss of a child. Or, it could be ignoring the phone call from your mom – the last call you’d ever get from her.

I think the real failure is not admitting our regrets.

Why?

Because by avoiding them, we’re oppressing them, and they live somewhere deep down in the core of our beings.  If we never acknowledge them we can’t forgive ourselves and move on.  Now, maybe you can go through that process rather quickly.  I'm not talking about needing to regret something for months or years on end in order to properly process the event.  That's not healthy either.   Acknowledge it, work through it,  and move on.

To regret has two meanings per Merriam-Webster dictionary. One of those definitions is to be “very sorry for.”  A synonym is to be repentant.  Have you never been sorry or repentant about any actions you've taken in life? The other is to “mourn the loss of” or to have “sorrow.”  Have you never been sorrowful over a situation?

Touting the mantra, “I live my life with no regrets” doesn’t raise you to a higher level of human understanding or possibilities. In fact, it stifles you and in my humble opinion, may make you unapproachable. It may make me think that you don’t care about what you say or do. What you consider carefree may actually be careless. Your actions could be dangerous because you could start doubting yourself and you’re unwilling to acknowledge those doubts. You’re only human, after all, and we all  doubt at some time or another.

That being said, not everything we regret is necessarily something we’re directly responsible for, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it. In other words, we don’t have to be bystanders. We can actively participate even when something is being or has been “done TO us.”  I can’t do anything about my past, but I am responsible for my present and can take control of my future.  I don’t have to be a victim to my past. I don't have to be chained to it.  I can choose to be a survivor and I can even move beyond surviving and choose to thrive.

 

A cool morning on the back deck

10 THINGS I HAVE REGRET(TED) 

1. I regretted that I was molested, sexually assaulted, physically abused, and raped.
2. I regretted that I had an emotional affair and my husband I separated for a year.
3. I regretted that I attempted suicide.
4. I regretted that I spanked my son as hard as I did when he was just a toddler.
5. I regretted that I wasn’t stronger, emotionally, during my whistleblower claim.
6. I regret that I don’t get to spend more time with my parents.
7. I regret that I don’t always trust my instincts.
8. I regret that I sometimes overspend.
9. I regret allowing my weight to become a defense mechanism against further sexual assaults.
10. I regretted not getting my driver’s license until I was in my mid 30s.

Now, if you have a hard time with this list…imagine replacing ‘I regret’ with ‘I wish’ and negating the sentences. Do you ever say that you wish you hadn’t done something?  Be careful to stay out of “would of, could of, should of’ land. That’s not healthy either. This is about finding the right balance. Acknowledging, finding a solution, realizing that sometimes good things can come from the negative, and moving on.  Obviously, there are some things I’ve been able to process and some things I’m still working on

15 WAYS TO LEARN AND GROW FROM REGRET

1. Keep a daily gratitude journal – try to look for the silver lining in everything.  What did you do right?  Did any good come of the situation?
2. Learn that saying, “NO” will open up more opportunities to say, “YES.”
3. Acknowledge regrets.  If you view regrets as personal failures, try to reframe them as opportunities to learn.
4. Challenge yourself to do the hard and scary things. Enlist the help of others if necessary.
5. Strive for progress not perfection. It’s about the journey not the destination.
6. Believe in yourself and your ability to grow as an individual, as a member of your family. and community.
7. Practice forgiveness – holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
8. Have an accountability partner – someone who will tell it to you straight.
9. Take time for self-care. Decide what self-care means for you and schedule time for it.
10. Learn how to use discernment, but make sure you have all the facts.
11. Trust yourself and your gut instincts.
12. Smile more – there’s some science behind fake it until you make it.
13. Realize that you may make the same mistake more than once.  Acknowledge it and start over. Remember #5.
14. Ask yourself if you did your best given the situation and circumstances.  Just like forgiving others, learn to forgive yourself.
15. What can you do now that might make a difference about the situation?

 

And, remember that Thomas Edison said, when asked about his 1000 failures to invent the lightbulb, “I didn't fail 1000 times.  The lightbulb was an invention with 1000 steps.”

 

 

The comments +

  1. Beth

    September 2nd, 2019 at 7:52 AM

    What a beautiful post!

  2. Linda

    September 2nd, 2019 at 8:41 AM

    This is a very thoughtful, insightful take on regret. I also believe in self-examination and learning from past experiences. I see everything that came before as necessary to who I am now. Learning from adverse experiences and “mistakes” offers tremendous growth. I didn’t know that quote from Edison, how very interesting!

  3. Ramae Hamrin

    September 2nd, 2019 at 9:41 AM

    That’s a long and hard list of regrets to read, Laura. My heart goes out to you. Forgiveness of self and others is key. I think we all are still working on that to some extent. I know I am. Always appreciate your depth and honesty! ❤️

  4. Lisa Manderino

    September 2nd, 2019 at 10:15 AM

    This is a great post. I agree we need to acknowledge the things we regret so that we can learn from them and rise above it. This is a great exercise to help change the perspective.

  5. Maria

    September 2nd, 2019 at 11:11 AM

    I love #5 (Strive for progress not perfection. It’s about the journey not the destination.), no matter what’s going on in your life, this is a great reminder.

  6. Carol

    September 2nd, 2019 at 11:41 AM

    Great advice! I agree that forgiveness, of yourself and others, is a very necessary and freeing action.

  7. Matt Epley

    September 2nd, 2019 at 12:32 PM

    #5 really resonates with me. Perfection is unattainable, and I know that, but sometimes I use my imperfections as a cop-out for not even trying…an egotistical cop-out at that.

    I’ve been working to fail and fail again, but better and better each time.

  8. Angela

    September 2nd, 2019 at 1:53 PM

    Lovely post and very honest!

  9. Jen

    September 2nd, 2019 at 1:55 PM

    I am so hard on myself at times so I could relate to a lot of this. Thank you for your transparency.

  10. Hollie

    September 2nd, 2019 at 2:37 PM

    Your honesty is inspiring! I try each day to live perfectly, but the reality is I fail multiple times a day and regret my actions at times. Embracing those regrets, learning from them and not repeating those actions helps me to grow each day and align more with the ‘perfect’ person I wish I could always be!

  11. Pauline Reynolds

    September 2nd, 2019 at 4:05 PM

    I have always tried to live my life without regrets and instead make them moments of growth and self reflection. What an inspiring post.

  12. Tricia Snow

    September 2nd, 2019 at 5:17 PM

    What a wonderful post and great tips to help others get through their regrets!

  13. Melissa Jones

    September 2nd, 2019 at 6:06 PM

    Such truthful and touching information. You have truly embraced your life and seem to be working on making it the best you can!

  14. Karla Petersen

    September 2nd, 2019 at 9:51 PM

    Things to think of. I haven’t thought of regret as anything other than wishes.

  15. Shannon

    September 2nd, 2019 at 11:21 PM

    The I wish is helpful in recognizing when i might be doing this.

  16. Amber

    September 3rd, 2019 at 5:20 AM

    I have a REALLY hard time taping into any type of uncomfortable “emotions” that maybe cause heartache or sadness. I may take your advice and keep a daily journal, probably isnt healthy to keep it all locked away inside!

  17. Suzan

    September 3rd, 2019 at 7:47 AM

    Love all the positive spins on those “regrets”!

  18. Lisa

    September 3rd, 2019 at 8:15 AM

    Strive for progress, not perfection. I love that line because it is so true! This list is fantastic!!

  19. T.M.

    September 3rd, 2019 at 11:34 AM

    This was honestly my favorite part of the piece, ” Strive for progress not perfection. It’s about the journey not the destination.” I am a perfectionist at heart, so this will stick with me.

  20. Cindy

    September 3rd, 2019 at 12:56 PM

    I thought I had commented on this one but I don’t see it. I love your 15 ways to grow through regrets. I don’t want to live with regret, which inspires me to do the things I really want to do. However we all have things we DO regret. Learning from them is powerful.

  21. Christina Furnival

    September 3rd, 2019 at 8:15 PM

    You epitomize strength, Laura Lee.

  22. Bee

    September 4th, 2019 at 1:34 PM

    I love your honesty! Very thought provoking post. I will have to look at my regrets in a different light now.

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