I always end the year by writing about my accomplishments, failure, regrets, and resolutions. I love this time of year because the calendar naturally moves me to reflect and take action. This post is all about 2018 regrets.
Every year, I write that regrets are a waste of time. Everybody makes mistakes, and it’s self-indulgent to focus on errors instead of solutions. Don’t be that person who looks back at the past and focuses on the “what ifs” and “what could have been.” That person is annoying, and, ultimately, never learns his lesson.
But I also realize there are people out there who never feel sadness or repentance over their behavior. That’s not healthy, either.
This year, I behaved in regretful ways. Got mad at the Walgreens drive-thru lady and didn’t use the best tone. Drank too much when I was trying to maintain my straightedge lifestyle. Wished someone a happy 50th birthday who was only turning 49.
Oooops. But I’m not a horrible person, and life continues.
For the first time, I also had middle-aged moments when I saw how decisions I made years ago influenced my life today. The path I didn’t take? The painful decision I tried to avoid? The person I didn’t treat well? Some of it came to roost in 2018, and I felt pangs of regret for not being smarter or braver when I was younger.
But, again, there’s nothing to do except make better choices.
Regret is a trap that paralyzes you from taking action. And the only way to beat the voice in your head is to take action right now and disrupt the negative feedback loop in your mind.
How do you stop focusing on regret? Some say exercise and movement are helpful tools. Service to others will change the conversation in your head, too. Some people are advocates for imagery, meditation, and mindfulness. I believe in talking to people — friends, loved ones, clergy, therapists — who are empathetic and wise. There is comfort in hearing stories where other people make mistakes and thrive.
Regret is a phenomenal waste of time, wasted on people and things that no longer deserve your attention. Behaved in regretful ways? Wish you could’ve made a different decision? Don’t linger. Make amends as best you can and move on.
The key, though, is to make better and more interesting mistakes. That’s what 2019 should be all about for you.