Dealing with regret

Submitted by Dave on Mon, 02/06/2017 - 21:06

With the weather and a number of sick kids keeping me indoors and out of my self-sufficiency stint for a few weeks, I've had a lot of time to think. Apparently thinking is a dangerous thing and all thinking leads to insanity. If my last two weeks are anything to go by, then that statement has its roots in truth.

As part of developing my values and finding out what I want to do in life I have had to face a number of demons. While it's great to name my demons and know what it is that is wrong in my life, doing that makes me realise that I missed out on a whole lot of fun and interesting opportunities.

It's all fine and good for the opportunities that can be taken anytime, I can go out and do those now. But what about the things that I missed. With the knowledge I have now, understanding who I am and why I think a certain way, I could have easily taken advantage of those situations and enjoy something that I always wanted, be it a relationship, a job or something else. I could have met the standards that I set for myself and had the opportunities, instead of seeing myself as a failure for not meeting those standards.

This, I think is the core of regret. Not being able to meet the standards that I set for myself.

The reality is I cannot go back and get the missed opportunities. I can potentially take advantage of a similar one today or in the future, but not get the missed one. Believing that I made the best choice possible at the time is something that I'm finding useful in resolving my regrets. It means that I don't apply what I know now to my evaluation of making that choice. I keep the understanding that I didn't have that tool at the time and realize that the choice I made was the right one at the time and that it was impossible to make a different choice.

This has, however, been an opportunity for me to reflect and understand the missed opportunities, without guilt, what I "should" have done, using my current knowledge. This means that I can then take the appropriate action the next time the situation presents itself.

Taking this route has allowed me to really understand the standards that I am holding myself to and where those standards are coming from. Time and time again, I am finding that the standards that I thought I had are not, in fact, my standards, but a muddle of conflicting ideas that have been imposed upon me by my upbringing and society in general.

Once I clear the crud, I find that I am much better able to release the regret and get on with my life. Not meeting my unrealistic standards has caused my self worth and self esteem to take a plunge in the past, causing anxiety and depression, but changing my standards to meet my real values and making sure that the things I want are actually what I want makes me realize that most of my regrets are about things I didn't really want anyway.

So to fix it, I need to set realistic goals, and learn from my past.