1. Make a regret bonfire. Either metaphorical or real.
Write out everything you regret including the emotions you feel for each one. Now strike a match and light the paper – watch with relief as your remorse and associated pain burns to harmless ash.
2. Ask a different question.
Quit asking, “What if I’d done this or I hadn’t done that?”
Instead, ask, “What if I stay exactly where I am, filled with regret for the rest of time?” How is life ever going to change?
3. Break the cycle.
Realize that every time you regret your previous words or actions, you’re losing a slice of today that you can never regain. That merely adds another regret over time, that of missing out on the present.
Say sorry with sincerity to make amends, and stop regretting how you acted or spoke. An apology is a powerful act whether it’s in person, or in a letter or a video – remember, be sure to explain, not excuse yourself.
5. Prevent further regret.
Take what led to your regret and double your efforts to avoid repeating the same mistake. If you wish you’d stepped up for a previous promotion, speak up before the next opportunity arises, increase your value to the company, and look for every chance to be thought of as the go-to employee ready for the next level.
6. Put things in perspective.
Focus on the billions worldwide who absolutely don’t care about the mistakes you made in the past or the people you might have wronged.
7. Give yourself a second chance.
Grant yourself permission to contribute today where you feel you failed previously. Say you regret not standing up for a needy cause; join a similar campaign now, and give it your unbridled support.
8. Give others a chance.
Put your regret to good use by helping others. Use the lessons you learned to stop others making the same error. Full of remorse for leaving education early or partying harder than studying? Be a benefactor in a school or college program for underprivileged teenagers that could turn their lives around.
9. Tell your regret “No!”
Fight against regretful thoughts with a powerful comeback. Choose a statement that empowers you, for example, “That was then, and this is now – different time, different person.”
10. Realize you’ve moved on.
Realize that the very fact that you regret your words or actions means you are no longer the person who would say or do those things. Whether it was intentional or an innocent blunder, you’ve learned a valuable lesson and can move on more the wiser.
11. Live in the now.
Step out of the past and into the present. Take up yoga or meditation to help you focus on living in the now. Throw yourself into today, and let yesterday fade away.
12. Realize it’s never too late.
Take positive action today, no matter how much time has passed since your regretful action. Even if you failed to end a lifelong quarrel with a loved one before they left this world, you could do something in their memory as an olive branch of atonement.
13. Stop living in an imaginary past.
Separate the reality of the regretful situation from the picture that remorse has painted in your mind. For example, it’s too easy to look back on a failed relationship and blame the whole thing on yourself. Be analytical, even critical to see the true story – you’ll move on more quickly and have a healthier perspective on your next relationship, just as I did.
14. Move on through kindness.
Show compassion for another. A selfless act today can cancel out a selfish action yesterday.
15. Write out a ‘regret’ vs. ‘proud of’ list.
On the left side, note all that you regret, and on the right all that you are proud of having achieved. It’s honesty time – no over-modesty here! Compare your lists and see how much time you’ve been focusing on the small percentage of negative events compared to the positives. Switch the balance, and dwell on the larger, positive percentage in the future.
16. Decide you’ve done your time.
Stop treating yourself inhumanely. You’ve punished yourself way beyond what is just for any perceived or real crimes you may have committed by forever berating yourself. Perpetuating the sentence has surely contravened your own bill of rights. Admit you’ve done your time, and set yourself free of the regret.
17. Take radical action.
Don’t rule out taking radical action if your life really is one long regret. Start afresh with a clean slate by killing off the old you. Reinvent yourself with a clean slate – no regrets. I moved to a new city, swapped my career to start over, and discovered that the dramatic changes to my lifestyle kept me focused on my new, liberated-from-regret persona. If you need to, move to a different country or even consider changing your name for a complete re-birth.
18. Build a library of quotes.
Use the wise words of others to help you acquit yourself of your perceived past mistakes or failings.
19. Go on a mission.
Create a mission statement. Detail the error you regret, immediately followed by how you intend to rectify it. Writing out a mission statement will motivate you to follow through and eradicate the regret. Refer to this whenever you feel discouraged.
20. Make it personal.
Start divorce proceedings against your regret. Write out your own petition, citing and listing your irreconcilable differences. By seeing regret as a separate entity responsible for keeping you trapped in a toxic relationship, you can break free. I was so surprised this turned out to be the lynchpin of my breaking out of a lifetime of regretting – my anger totally beat down my regret.
21. Think of friends and family.
If you really can’t change your habit of regret for yourself, do it for those who love you. Understand that anyone consumed by regret is hard to live with. By focusing on being better to be around, you’ll more easily combat regretful thoughts and commit to new, positive ways of thinking.