Use regret to fuel you in the future.
Accepting the actions (or inaction) you have taken in the past is one of the most important steps in dealing with regret.
Accept the fact that you are where you are right now. We don't experience as much regret when we are younger because we don't have as much experience in our lives to feel regret.
The more you age, the more you will have to regret. There are almost infinite things in life to regret when you think about it. The career path you didn't choose, the person you didn't date, or the places you didn't travel.
At every moment, we are always choosing a direction in life. Over time, the doorways we walked through close behind us, and we have no choice but to make a better decision. This leads us to two types of thinking:
Upward Counterfactual thinking- how things could have been better.
Downward Counterfactual thinking- things could have been worse.
We often think in an upward counterfactual way. When we have regrets, we think that we could have done something better when in fact, things could have been worse. It's easy to think we could have done better in hindsight.
Think about that crush that you didn't ask out. Maybe they were the love of your life, but also maybe they were out of their minds? You will never know, and there is no point in trying to imagine scenarios in which that happened.
Take Action And Cut Down The Rumination Period
One of the biggest things I have learned in practicing presence and mindfulness is how important it is to reduce the time periods in which you experience negative emotions.
It's perfectly natural to feel sorrow, anger, fear, or regret. The goal isn't to eliminate them from our lives entirely. These emotions serve a purpose, and that purpose is to tell us that something is wrong. However, the difference in the time length we experience these emotions makes a massive difference.
Imagine a situation in your life that you regret or once regretted. Perhaps it was a relationship, a job opportunity, or a decision that you didn't make.
Maybe you messed up, and you should have some regret with it, but the order of magnitude for regretting something for 5 seconds versus 5 minutes versus five days versus five years is immense.
That inaction is now living in your mind bogging down your mental bandwidth and preventing you from moving forward.
We all ruminate on decisions we regret. Do not live with it too long because the only way you're going to get out of your feelings of regret is to not miss the next great opportunity the next time.
The Paradox Of Options
We have a massive amount of options in today's world. You can pursue an endless number of career paths, you have all the options of entertainment at your fingertips, or you can buy anything from any retail store in the world delivered right to your doorstep. It truly is amazing.
With all those options comes the paradox of options. While I'm a big believer that it's great to have a lot of options, having too many options can become a bad thing. If you have all the options to choose from, how do you choose? How often do you get bored of the shampoo you buy and search the internet for an hour for a new shampoo?
Use Regret To Fuel Future Action
While regret is often looked at as a 100% bad thing, it can be productive if you use it correctly. I regret not putting enough work into my 100-mile ultra marathon. I'm using that to fuel me to train harder for the next one. My goal is now to run at least 40 miles a week all year with the plan to ramp it up.
Regret becomes counterproductive if you are constantly thinking about it. When you ruminate about what you did or didn't do, it can lead to apathy and make you feel depressed.
If you regret something at this moment, make sure that you won't regret it again a year from now or ever again. Start fresh and give life everything you have. If a regret does come up, use that as a guide for your future actions.