“If only…”

Most of us think or say these words countless times during the course of our lives. “If only I’d been better prepared”, “If only I hadn’t lost my temper”, “If only I’d taken the advice I was given”, and other variations, all of which amount to the same thing: regret. We all have regrets, in one form or another – whether they are regrets about things we’ve done or things we didn’t do, regrets are something that we all experience. Inherently negative, it is important to recognise the danger in focussing too much on regret. The danger is that we become stuck in a loop, immobilised by our own guilt and our fear of doing – or not doing – something.

There are ways to turn the negativity of regret into something more empowering, to help improve your life or your perspective:

  • Acknowledge the fact that you have regrets. This is a crucial first step, as pushing the regrets away or pretending they don’t exist will only exacerbate the problem.
  • Determine what it is that you’re regretting – are you regretting that you did something, or that you didn’t do something? This is a very important distinction to make, because it is a way for you to reflect on the decision that you made and to learn from any mistakes that occurred. You can only improve yourself if you know what needs to be fixed.
  • Plan to do better next time. Think about your regret and recognise how you could improve next time you find yourself in the same or similar situations. Regrets become negative and counterproductive if they are not used to help sculpt your life or perspective in better ways.
  • Finally, learn to forgive yourself. Remember that you are only human; mistakes are part of living out your life on this world, and you’ll make decisions that will impact yourself and others both positively and negatively.

For many things in life, you will never know the outcome of certain situations until you actually decide to do or not do something. Therefore, there will always be decisions you make that may not go the way you hope. There is a reason the right choices are so clear when you look at them in hindsight: you have all the information necessary now that you didn’t have then. Life is too short to spend looking back on every decision you make, and drowning in regret. Look to the present and the future, and remember: tomorrow is another day.