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Don't let regrets of the past tarnish your future

OVERCOMING: Ross Gee explain how to overcome regret

WHEN I WAS younger, in my university days, I didn’t know anything about “responsible drinking”.

Because of this, I was involved in several situations that I regret. However there is one that stayed with me for many years. One night, after heavy drink- ing at the university club, staggering home with friends, we found ourselves passing this building.

For some reason that night, I got in the spirit of the evening, which involved throwing rocks at the light covers all the way down the footpath. This led to raucous laughter and one or two guys falling over.

The precise details of the evening are a little sketchy, but I remember being on the roof and someone throwing me a chair. I raced higher up the roof and threw the chair against a glowing blue cross which was fixed there and it immediately smashed and stopped glowing.

The next day I had a vague recollection of the evening, and thought the incident may not have happened. Driving towards the area a few days later, I was thinking to myself, “please be still glowing!” – it wasn’t.

For several reasons, I felt so bad about that incident: it went entirely against my nature, I wrecked a beautiful landmark for the people in that area, and for months and months and months, I had to drive past the now pitch-black area and was reminded of my actions.

People are filled with regret for many reasons. Regret can be a powerful thing that takes hold of your life. When feelings of regret are very strong, the thoughts and emotions can chip away at your life and bring you down.

Beginning to deal with regret starts with you. Even though
you may have done something terrible – and I’m not excusing behaviour that is immoral, illegal or otherwise – regret is sometimes there for a reason. It’s a conviction in your heart that you should not have done that particular thing.

You can begin to get past this, however, and you still have the whole rest of your life to live, so don’t waste it away on past regrets!

Achieving this often means confronting a situation and bringing things into the open. This is a particularly hard thing to do, but can help you get your life back on track.

Apologise to the person involved, admit you were at fault, try to make amends. Learn from your past experience. You can’t change what has happened, but you can make a decision, today, to make amends as much as possible.

Other times, regret involves a past experience that is constantly played back in the mind. The truth is, you cannot change the past, no matter how much you wish it to be so.

If someone has died, for example, you just don’t have the opportunity to tell them things that you wanted to say. Getting past regrets can seem tough for people in this situation, however you can also begin to deal with regrets in your life. The plan for your
life is not for you to stew in past misery and regret.

Here are a number of tips to deal with regret:

1. Writing about your regrets, feelings, and frustrations can help you understand why you did what you did, and how you can learn from mistakes.

2. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can also help you identify fallacies in your thinking and give you the opportunity to sort through your feelings, instead of just experiencing them inside yourself.

3. Visualise yourself acting and doing things as you move forward and leave your regrets behind.

4. Seek out support groups or a counsellor in order to discover how you can get relief from regret and guilt.

5. Keep your situation in perspective. Remember that anything you’ve done is totally forgivable, even though it may seem unforgivable to you.

6. Take comfort in knowing that we’ve all made really huge mistakes. You’re not alone. If you only knew all the skeletons in people’s closets, you’d know that we all do things we seriously regret at times. But, this too will pass (as they say).

Should all else fail and leave you lacking the will to attempt anything ever again, just leave everything behind.

Make every day a new beginning of your life, and past mistakes mere handicaps that you are born with. Your focus from now would be to shape your life into what you want.

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