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Why did I or didn’t I do it? If only I would have *blank*. If these phrases often pass through your psyche, then you’re likely feeling unremitting regret.
According to Sarah Madaus and Erica Sloan at Well+Good, regret is not necessarily a bad emotion. Instead, it is a gauge of what does and does not make us happy, what we should or should not do next time. As a species, we are certainly not perfect, and our brains, while well-evolved past our primal ancestors, still can run on pure emotion instead of logic and future-consequence thinking. Regret is a way to protect ourselves when we make the next decision.
In addition to learning from our past choices, regret can also be the kick in the butt we sometimes desperately need. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought about the past and been saddened by actions, or worse yet, wished I had chosen a different road. This is a very normal process, as long as we don’t let it suck out all of the present-day joy, but instead, use it as motivation to keep going.
Let’s try this together. Think of a situation in the past where you felt regret about your actions. Why do you regret it? Is it because you missed out? Is it because you said or did something that is opposite of the person you want to be? If you could, would you have done something different?
Now, think about how you can turn this lesson into ambition. What will you do the next time something like this happens? How will your future decision help change the course and establish internal peace? How will you break through any negative patterns and find the happier route?
It’s ok to feel like you should’ve done better or differently, as long as you take that energy and mold it into determination.