Coping with life’s regrets.

By David Joel Miller.

Don’t let regrets about the past ruin the present and future.

Regrets.

Regret.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you have regrets? Maybe they are small ones; you wish you bought the other color or model. Maybe your regrets are big ones, actions that caused you or others pain, things you wish you could go back and change. But you can’t change the past. Almost everyone has regrets, some small, some large, a few even gigantic. So, what to do with those regrets? How do you get past the pains of your past?

Fix the things you can.

You can repair some things. You said or did something that damaged a relationship. Sometimes you can apologize, say you’re sorry. If you owe somebody money you can pay it. Sometimes an apology is not enough. Maybe you need to do something to make it right, to make your amends to the person you have injured.

Undo yes and no decisions.

You can undo some decisions. You said yes to a job or attending a party and now you wish you hadn’t said yes. You’re entitled to change your mind. Call that person, send them an email. Maybe you said no to something or someone, and now you wish you had said yes. Check it out; sometimes it’s possible to change your mind.

Pick a new alternative from life’s menu.

Sometimes changing your decision is no longer a possibility. For example, you wanted to attend a concert but didn’t buy the tickets in time. Look for other options. Maybe the person or group you wanted to hear is performing somewhere else nearby. Maybe there’s some other event you would enjoy instead. Don’t stay stuck in regret over the relationship that didn’t work out, maybe it’s time to meet someone new.

Only take responsibility for your part of the problem.

A lot of life’s regrets are about relationships. Maybe it was an argument with a family member or friend, that conflict cost you a relationship. Take responsibility for your part of the conflict. You can’t take responsibility for what the other person did or said. If you can fix it do so, but not at the cost of ignoring the other person’s part in the problem.

Reevaluate the alternatives. You may have picked the best alternative you had.

Sometimes you must pick between two bad choices. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You may have made the best choice you could under the circumstances. Be careful of hindsight. If you would have had the information you have now back then, you might have made a different decision. But you didn’t have that information, and you had to choose. Don’t spend the rest of your life stuck in regret.

Learn from your mistakes.

Don’t be one of those people with tons of regret who keeps doing the same things over and over. Stop piling up new regrets by learning from your mistakes and making improved decisions in the present.

Practice extreme acceptance.

Staying stuck in regrets can use up a lot of energy. Practice accepting that what happened is in the past. Avoid ruminating and allowing your mind to enlarge the pain. Shift your focus from regrets about the past to opportunities for better future.

Stop looking over your shoulder at the past.

The past is gone. Don’t keep looking back at the things that can’t be altered. When the thought of that regret comes up, practice shifting your focus to the future. As long as your alive there will be more events ahead on the road of life. Look forward to making your future the best it can be. If you only look for the bad in life, you will find it. It’s quite possible that all around you are opportunities for happiness here in the present and in the future.

Do some psychological repair.

Make healing from life’s regrets a priority. Sometimes you will have a close friend with whom you can talk it through. You may need to be careful about who you tell what. Telling family or friends about things you regret may damage your relationship. If you are not sure how someone will react to hearing about your regrets, that person may not be the one to talk with. Once you tell that secret, it can’t be untold. Some people find it useful to journal, write out how they feel in a document meant for only them to see.

If you’re having trouble processing and dealing with regrets, you may need to seek professional counseling help. Don’t stay stuck in a life dominated by regrets. Use some of these approaches to change what you can, and accept what you cannot change.

You find more about this topic under Regret.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Top 6 life regrets

By David Joel Miller.

Will you regret your action or inaction?

Regret.

Regret.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Regrets are a common human problem. Some regrets, for some people, are relatively minor, others can cause you a great deal of pain and may require professional intervention. Both economists and psychologists study regret, and they come to very different conclusions about the nature and behavior of regrets. Economist study regrets you might have after making a major purchase, buyer’s remorse, or failing to make a purchase and then seeing that item increased dramatically in price. Most economic regrets fade with time. Emotional regrets, jumping into a relationship or dropping out of school prematurely, are likely to become more painful as your life progresses.

Lifespan regrets happen when you look back at the past and wish something had happened or you wish that something that did happen had never occurred. Some regrets are a normal part of life others can be destructive of your mental and emotional health.

Troublesome regrets can lead to anxiety, depression, and lowered self-esteem. The most painful emotional regrets are about bad choices, things done and things undone. In the short-term, more people regret taking actions that turned out badly. Pessimists are more likely to accumulate regrets and to judge their action or inaction harshly.

Over the long-term, particularly as people grow older, for many people, their biggest regrets are the things they wish they had done, but their fears kept them from acting.

Unfortunately, sometimes regardless of what you decide, you will face regrets. If you choose to do something you may regret the outcome, and if you choose not to do it you may forever regret not taking action.

Regrets over life’s mistakes, the bad decisions, that involve action fade with time for most people. There are ways to correct or accept the results of many actions. People grow to love their children even when they regret the impulsive sex with an undesirable partner. It’s possible to end most bad relationships; you can break up or get a divorce. Remediating the effects of bad decisions can be painful, but they are possible. The regrets most likely to haunt you, as you grow older, are the regrets over your indecision and inaction.

Healthy regrets or Unhealthy regrets?

Regrets can affect you positive or negative. Regrets when someone has died remind us of our relationship with that person and can be a normal part of grieving. Regrets can also spur you to change your behavior or move in a new direction. The primary difference between regrets and all other negative emotions is that we regret things about which we had choices. Without a possible choice, you may dislike the outcome, but you are unlikely to regret the choices you made.

Some regrets can be just the push you need to change your course of action. If you regret shopping at a store or eating in a restaurant, you can easily change that decision the next time. Self-blame and rumination fuel unhealthy regrets. Beating yourself up over past choices will lower your self-esteem. In regret, you feel that you have made a bad choice rather than that outside forces have caused something undesirable to happen.

What decisions cause the most long-term regrets?

You are most likely to regret the decisions you made when you had lots of choices (Roese, N., Summerville, A., 2015.) Some choices are irrevocable, like having a child because of impulsive sex. Another major source of regret is those things you always wanted to do, told yourself someday, but just never got around to. Are there things you’re doing now, or things you’ve left undone that will be major sources of regret in the future? Below is a list of the things people frequently report as major causes of regret compiled by adding together the results of multiple studies.

1. Not getting education causes regrets.

In study after study the top regret people report has to do with education. On average one-third of the people surveyed regretted not getting more education They regret not staying in school, not studying hard enough or not pursuing a degree in a subject that interested them. Conflicts between education and finances cause some of these regrets. People drop out of school and take a job because the current income is more attractive than the larger income staying in school might have resulted in.

Many other people regret being seduced by the prospect of making a lot of money in one field, and as a result, pursuing a degree in a field they did not enjoy. They commonly regret not pursuing a degree in an area for which they had a passion. It’s easy to let the cost of more education keep you from following your dream. Following an education in a field because your parents or others talk you into it can also be a huge source of regret. Getting your education in a highly paid field can be a great mistake if you have neither the aptitude nor the interest in that field.

In middle and late life many people report their greatest life regret is not getting that degree in the subject they were most interested in. One reason, failure to get more education, is number 1 on the list of common regrets is the wide availability in the United States of additional or advanced education. Making the decision not to pursue education is not a one-time decision, but something people must continuously do.

In a survey of senior citizens, the number 1 regret of men was that they hadn’t gotten more education. The primary regret of women was similar; they wished they spent more time developing their mind or intellect (DeGenova MK, 1992.)

Researchers suggest the reason failing to get more education is the number 1 regret in America is because it is seen as the one thing an individual can do that greatly increases their opportunities in all the other life domains.

2. Career choice regrets.

Between 20 and 25 percent of all the people surveyed regretted their career choice. This regret is often linked to failure to get an advanced education or job-specific training. Starting out in life, you need to earn a living. For example, if your uncle owns a landscaping business, you might get a job working for him mowing lawns. After years of doing this kind of work, you may have severe regrets that you didn’t explore other possible career choices.

Other commonly reported regrets about career choices involved letting others talk you out of a career dream. If you always wanted to be an artist, dancer or other performer, you may have let people talk you out of following your dream. Many people avoid aiming high. Later they regret not having made an effort to become a doctor, lawyer or other respected professional.

3. Regrets about romantic decisions.

Surprisingly, given all the literature about love, and the number of divorces, only 15 percent of those surveyed reported ongoing regrets about their romantic decisions. One possible reason regrets in this area were less significant may be the frequency with which people can change romantic relationships. Young people were far more likely to express regrets about romantic decisions. Failure to ask someone out or to pursue a relationship with someone were reasons cited for regrets about romantic decisions.

4. Parenting choices can cause regrets.

Parenting choices were a source of regret for 10 percent of survey participants. In studies of the regrets of college students, they were more likely to regret choices involving friendships. As people age, regrets about social relationships become more focused on decisions having to do with children.

5. Self.

Just over 5 percent of people reported regrets in this area. People with regrets in this area are likely to show up in therapy or seek self-help materials to “find themselves.” Losing yourself in relationships and becoming alienated from your feelings can be sources of regrets in this area.

6. Regrets about leisure time activities.

Recreation and hobbies can contribute to good mental health. Surprisingly only about 2 ½ percent of people ever report regrets about their leisure time activities. When I have had clients mention regrets in this area, it usually involved working too much and giving up sports and hobbies that used to bring them joy.

Other areas of regret.

The literature on regret includes six other areas of life about which people sometimes express regret. While these areas can result in painful regrets, they all turned out to be less common than researchers had expected. The other areas of your life that might cause you regrets include finances, family, health, friends, spirituality, and community.

Decisions you are not likely to regret.

When the choice you make seems clearly superior to the alternative, you are less likely to regret that decision. If you fail several classes in your chosen major, you are less likely to regret giving up on that major. When there have been repeated problems in your relationship, breakups, cheating or violent fights, you are more likely to regret staying in that relationship then leaving it.

Do you have a life regrets? Which of those regrets are things from the past you need to accept that which are things in the present you need to change?

You find more about this topic under Regret.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Want the latest on my writing projects, speaking and teaching, along with comments on recent news in the field of counseling – sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.