regret nothingRegrets? We’ve all had a few. Whether its things you did and wished you didn’t, or things you never did and wished you had, the sting of regret bites hard. Actress Hayden Panettiere had the words “No Regrets” tattooed on her body in Italian. The problem was that she misspelled the word regret. Now she’s having the tattoo lasered off. The best part of the story is what a good sport she is about it. She got the tattoo as a reminder of a great lesson her Dad taught her as a kid. When she was upset about something, he slammed the bathroom door, which forced a closet door open at the same time. Then he slammed the closet door, and the bathroom door opened. He said to her, ‘Whenever one door closes, another one always opens,’

I love the image, and so did she. She got the tattoo to remind herself not to regret anything. Now even the tattoo is schooling her in the same lesson. She said, “It’s not that you don’t regret things in life, but you at least try to learn from them.”

We could all take a little ink out of Hayden’s tattoo. The Japanese Kimono gown is a beautiful symbol of this same lesson. Some Kimonos have very plain outer designs but immaculate and exquisite decoration on the inside of the gown. Some of them are even intentionally imperfect on the outside. We should all keep something flawed or misspelled close by to remind us that this is the nature of life. If we get hung up on imperfections, we will live in a state of perpetual regret.

Its what’s on the inside that matters, and the inside is where we handle disappointment without lapsing into bitterness or regret.

So here goes with ten tips to leaving regret behind:

1. Invest your time and energy wisely- If you keep in the back of your mind that one day you will be looking back on choices you make today, you can make choices now that you will be proud of for years to come. (or not, because none of us is perfect, but this is a later step and I don’t want to regret getting ahead of myself here)

But as far as is humanly possible, make choices now that align with your highest hopes and you will minimize regret later.

As Stephen Covey says, “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”

2. Take responsibility for your choices. No one is holding a gun to your head when you make choices. If it feels like someone is holding you to ransom, you need to find more options. The beauty of this step is that its all YOU! You get to decide. If things work well, kudos. If things don’t work out well, fine, change course, its still YOU! Do it freely without guilt or shame.

Victoria Holt said, “Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.”

3. Accept that mistakes are part of life. We all make mistakes, so do your best in each moment, forgive yourself if need be and move on.

Author, Jodi Picoult wrote, “My dad used to say that living with regrets was like driving a car that only moved in reverse.” Living with regret slows you down and saps your energy because its HARD to run backwards and its exhausting to constantly look over memory’s shoulder. We all have things we wish were different, so learn to shrug your shoulders and say “Oh well!”

4. Focus your energy on what you learned rather than what happened to you.

If you’re like me, you likely spend a lot of time (especially night hours) replaying events and conversations. Its natural. When it becomes a problem is when we do it mindlessly, just replaying what happened rather than intentionally thinking about how much we learned from the experience.
There is a place for forgetting. Norman Vincent Peale described the art of forgetting:

Man is what he remembers, but man is also what he forgets. One of the healthiest things a human being can do is to become a master of forgetting. Whatever you do, don’t lug your resentments, your hates, your frustrations, your disappointments, your regrets into the New Year. Forge ahead! It is a great art to know how to forget. Drop it, skip it, let it go — whatever it is. Start anew.

But you can’t force yourself to forget, so this won’t always work. So you have to work WITH your memories rather than blocking them out. Work at reframing them.

5. Reframe stubborn memories as reminders of how much you’ve grown.

I read an awesome interview with the comedian Mel Brooks. He was asked the question, “What advice would you give to a younger you?” He said,

Forget about correcting your past. You learn from your past as you go along. You can’t say, “If I had. . . .” You say, “OK, all right. That was a mistake. I won’t do that again.” That’s how you learn.

6. Express yourself whenever possible in the moment, so that you don’t look back and wish you’d told someone you love or appreciate them. And so that you don’t wish you’d spoken up for someone being treated unfairly, or whatever the truth burning inside of you was saying. Speak it now, while its fresh and clear.

7. Make a list of goals and priorities, so you can live intentionally and not look back and wonder why you spent time the way you did.

Shakespeare said, “Make use of time, let not advantage slip.”

8. Be really bold. If something needs to be changed, take steps to change it now.

Carpe diem! This is the time to make changes. What are you waiting for? Any answers to that question are likely excuses. Forget excuses, just do it.

9. Be generous to yourself. You did what you thought best in the past. You do better when you know better.

Give yourself as much generosity as you would give others. Be as patient with yourself as you would with a small child, or a pet who is doing all they know at the time.

“Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.” ~ Saint Francis de Sales

10 . Keep things in perspective. You might regret something from your past, but it might have brought you more gifts than you realize. Focus on the gifts and it will shift your perspective.

This brings up back to when one door closes, another one opens. When you feel yourself getting sucked back into regret’s black hole, go and find a couple of doors. Slam one, and watch another one open. Regret is like putting your foot in  the way of closing door rather than running to go through the door that is opening.

Last words to Mel Brooks. He was asked, “How should a man handle regret?”

Let it go! Don’t dwell on it. I would go to the racetrack every once in a while, and I’d start yelling, “It was by a nose!” I would go on and on, and then my racing buddy, Darrell Richard, who was on the ‘Donna Reed Show’ would say to me, “Leave it on the bus, don’t dwell on your regrets.” And he’s right. It’s hard not to, but don’t regret, just forget about it. Don’t take negative time, just take positive time.

Enjoy the light feeling of being regret free. Its good for your health, great for your mood and makes you a magnet for positive people, experiences and thoughts.

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  1. [...] Ten Tips For Saying Hasta La Vista to Regret – Regrets? We’ve all had a few. Whether its things you did and wished you didn’t, or things you never did and wished you had, the sting of regret bites hard. [...]