“Regret can be your worst enemy or your best friend. You get to decide which,” writes Martha Beck, writer and life coach.
Only if you are an individual who has little regard for the feelings and welfare of others can you have no regrets. So if Beck is right and we can choose how we frame regrets, why not opt for them to be our best friend? Understanding why we did what we did and learning from the experience means mistakes can become useful.
Learning from our mistakes means we no longer pretend to be perfect, but neither do we have to live ashamed. Once we realize what we've done, we can make amends and learn a better way of being.
Learning from our mistakes means we are not quick to judge. Personally, I am big on second chances — for myself as well as another.
Learning from mistakes also means becoming wiser about who — and what — is really important. Australian poet, jockey and politician Adam Lindsay Gordon wrote, “There comes a point in your life when you realize who matters, who never did, who won't anymore and who always will.” The same goes for realizing what matters, what never did, what won't anymore and what always will.
So you made a mistake? Admit it. Learn from it. Allow the experience to help you become more responsible. Let it make you willing to hold out a hand to anyone else who is knee-deep in regrets.
Ironically, sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places. As novelist Victoria Holt says, “If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.”
The key is learning how to move on rather than getting weighed down with “coulda, woulda, shoulda” self-talk. If we get paralyzed with regrets from our past, we will miss the good things in our lives today.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.