retirement - be positive
light switch - dealing with regret

Dealing with regret

Are you dealing with regret for the decisions and choices you  made in the past, lost opportunities, the path you  didn’t take? Career choices, relationship choices – all the things in our life that we wish we could do over but can’t? How do you deal with the regret and longing for what might have been?

One of the plusses and minuses of retirement is having the time to think.  Reflecting on a life’s work, it is inevitable that your mind turns to those key moments – for most people they are a mixed bag.  Very few of us have lead catastrophic lives – there will have been some good moments, some poor choices, opportunities forgone and unwise chances taken.

How then to reconcile those thoughts, so that reflection is a healthy and productive experience – or at least not one that becomes consuming, disproportionate and affecting the life that is ahead of you?

Thinking Man

Be honest with yourself

Accept the fact that none of us are perfect. Often it is only when we are older and wiser do we realize that we could have done things differently. We try the best that we can for where we are in life at that time – knowledge, experience, nature all dictated the decision you took.  It’s so easy with hindsight to think that you could have made better choices – admit your failure but be kind to yourself in doing so.

Look at the people around you

Every single person that has ever lived made mistakes.  Everyone. 

Or, to be more precise, they would have made a different choice if they could have that moment again.  But that’s not given to us – we have to deal with that reality, and recognise the good that is around.

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams
A Sad Dog In The Street
John Barrymore

List the positives

List all the good things that came out of the moments that you regret.  There will always be consequences, good and bad, from any life choice. By concentrating on the positives  you can change your perspective on life;
Try using positive words to describe yourself
  • Able
  • Creative
  • Dependable
  • Energetic
  • Flexible
  • Generous
  • Honest

Write down your regrets

Write down what troubles you and any ancient regrets or bad memories.  Getting them out of your head and on paper has a miraculous way of releasing their hold on you.

I am not a regret type person. I don't believe in regrets. Lots of things you would do differently if you'd do it again, but you don't do it again, so you don't think about it. But that goes for life in general. You're only dealing with the knowledge you have at that time.
Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood

Set new goals

Find something positive and meaningful to do with your life.  Set some new goals, ambitions – by this time next year I will … etc.

In retirement, volunteering is a great way of making new friends, and has many other benefits:

  • Provides you with a sense of purpose
  • Brings fun into your life
  • Provides a sense of community
  • Increases your social skills
  • Improves self-esteem

Laugh a lot

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter reduces stress.  A good joke will distract (have a look at my Jokes about Aging page), even temporarily, and lift your mood and sense of well being. If jokes don’t hit the spot, maybe poetry is what you need.

Make a choice – choose happiness

Life is too short to be consumed by negativity. Remove yourself from situations that sap your energy and cause you pain. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a relationship, a job, a location or something else. Don’t pay your regrets forward – believe that you can make the change.

Ask yourself “What am I doing TODAY?”

Today is the only day that you can improve – help people, be kind, move forward.  Because we’ve all lived and we’ve all learned… as we look back, at this point be grateful, be as healthy as you can be and strive to be happy.