Regrets - 5 Reasons We Have Them and How to Make Them a Positive Experience

by Catherine Pratt

We regret the chances we didn't take

When I was about 16, I received an invitation to join a prestigious track and field club after doing really well in a local competition. I really wanted to do it. I loved track and field especially the hurdles. I could practice those over and over until my phys ed teacher told me I had to come in. But I ended up turning the invitation down.


Because it meant going by myself and also taking the bus to an unfamiliar part of town. I lacked the confidence to go to a new place by myself. Seems silly now but at the time it made perfect sense to me. New places and people terrified me. So, I allowed fear to get the best of me. Even today, I wonder what I could have accomplished if I’d had the confidence to make it past that first obstacle of getting there.

Do you have any regrets of things you wished you’d done? Or have you actually done something only to regret it later? You tell yourself something like, “How could I have been so dumb?", "What was I thinking?" or "Wow, I really regret that”.

Whenever you find yourself regretting something, ask yourself, “Why do I regret it?”

Is it because:

You were pushed beyond your comfort zone and expected to do something you’re not quite comfortable with
This can be a good thing. Think about why it scared you so much and then face that fear. You’ll be proud of yourself after you accomplish your goal. Turn it around. Think of it as an experience.

You did it on impulse and now regret that you didn’t think it through
It’s a valuable skill to be able to think about your options and the potential consequences prior to taking action. As long as you don’t let the “what if’s” fears stop you from pursuing something you really want to do.

The results weren’t what you expected
You did something expecting a certain response and something totally different occurred. Learn from the experience. You’ve probably learned some valuable lessons about human nature. And you never know, it might end up being a really good thing. Look for the silver lining

You allowed fear to stop you from taking advantage of an opportunity
Just like my track and field offer, use it to remind yourself the next time an opportunity comes up that you don’t want to miss out on something else. Also, let it remind you of how far you’ve come since then. Maybe you weren’t ready at that time but you are now. Don’t live with the disappointment of not knowing what might have been if only you had managed to conquer your fears.

You wish you’d done something differently
You chose to do it a certain way for a reason and you did the best you could at the time. Also, you don't know, doing things differently might have turned out worse. You have no idea what the results could have been. Also, just because it didn't work out right this time doesn't mean it won't work the next time. A few tweaks and you might have a winner on your hands.

Never have regrets for what you've done. It's a waste of energy. Forgive yourself if you need to and move on. Regrets just weigh you down and cause you to fear trying new things.

Regrets are not meant to drag you down. They’re valuable experiences. Sometimes it's years later that you realize what a wonderful experience it was for you. It may not always have been pleasant at the time but you'll probably realize how much you gained from it later.

Your life is constantly changing in new and wonderful ways. Don’t let past regrets stop you from experiencing fully everything life has to offer. And, if you catch yourself suddenly saying, “I just did something and now I totally regret it”, ask yourself “Why”. See what you can learn from it and how you can turn it around to be a positive experience.

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