6 Ways to Let Go of Past Regrets and Live in the Present
If I had a nickel for all the hours I’ve spent rehashing decisions I’ve made in the past, I’d have to get a bigger closet for all the shoes I‘d be able to buy. When it comes to thinking about the woulda, coulda, shoulda in any past situations, I’m the Queen of Regret. I usually second guess my actions any time conflict or an important decision is involved. And I can’t stop.
I realize this isn’t the best way to enjoy my life. As much as I’ve tried, I still dwell on crap that I can’t do anything about. These range from the trivial, like wondering if I picked the best appetizer last night, to wondering if I chose the right college degree.
I don’t give myself the chance to enjoy the good things happening to me right now because I’m still fixated over a decision I made last Tuesday about which jeans to buy. So how can I stop regretting things that have already happened and enjoy the present moment?
In an effort to save my sanity, I’ve come up with six ways to help worry warts like me be okay with past decisions, whatever they may be, and move on with life worry-free. Well, at least as close to worry-free as possible.
1. In the grand scheme of things, does this really matter?
In my experience, after time passes, most things don’t matter as much as we thought they did. They lose their sting. So what if I made a bad decision getting my haircut. At least I have hair. It’ll grow back. I’ve always wanted to know what I’d look like in a short pixie style and now I do. Stressing over how slow my hair grows and wishing I never did this isn’t going to give me Rapunzel’s hair any quicker. It’s just going to take away from more positive things I could be doing right now, like embracing my new look and treating myself to a giant pair of celebrity-like sunglasses.
2. Can you go back in time and fix it?
Obviously not. What’s done is done. Right out of college, I was offered a job at HBO but I turned it down for something I thought was more creative. For the entire time I worked at my first choice, I wondered if I had made the right decision. Where would I be now if I followed that path not chosen? How could I have advanced in that company instead of where I am now? The questions kept coming. But that’s not important now. I’ve moved on, changed careers and cities. Everything has brought me here.
3. Wiggle your toes.
This helps bring me back to the present moment. And if I can be barefoot and squish my toes on a soft rug then even better. Being present helps get me out of my head and back into my body. Feeling the cool grass beneath my feet or enjoying a warm foot bath is not only invigorating, but helps stop the runaway train of irrational thoughts.
4. Take a deep breath.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget to breathe. I don’t pass out or anything, but it amazes my boyfriend at how long I can go with just taking shallow bird like breaths. Take a deep cleansing breath. Let it go. Then do it again. Oxygen is good for the brain. Sometimes all it takes is to stop and take some deep breaths to get some space between you and your anxious thoughts. No one wants to see you pass out and hit your head because you decided to buy wedge booties in beige instead of black and now they don’t have the black ones in your size anymore. You already chose the beige. So stick with the beige. They look great. Now go out and enjoy them.
5. Get an opinion from someone you trust, then stop asking.
It never hurts to check in with a few good friends, a mentor or a trusted family member to see if you’re making the right decision. Especially for those biggies such as moving across country to follow your dreams (yes!) or getting a timeshare in Barbados (no!). Once you get feedback from people you trust, then you can weigh the pros and cons and hopefully feel more confident making a decision. What’s more important is being at peace with it. Just make sure you’re not being swayed by what others want you to do. Make sure it’s what you want to do. By the way, once you get their opinion stop asking. Don’t circle argue and ask them if the option they didn’t choose for you would be better. Because that will drive people crazy. Just ask my boyfriend.
6. Flip a coin and let fate decide.
If you like to gamble then this method may work for you. It’s quick and easy. Let a penny from The Universe choose your fate. My friend did this after grad school to decide where she should relocate to begin her career. Luckily for me, she landed in San Francisco which is a mere plane shuttle away. Otherwise I’d be buying a parka and spending winter breaks in Minnesota.
So there you have it. Some ways to help you deal with the stress of regret. Every decision we make leads us down our chosen path, whether we fully realize it or not. There really are no bad decisions. Each one brings with it lessons of experience. And isn’t that what life is all about?
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