Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are "should haves" different from regrets?

I've said before that I do not want to live my life with regrets. But are the things I think should have done but didn't just a lesser degree of regret? Like the idea that I should have attended college in Oregon to study environmental issues but for whatever reason didn't? It's hard to regret that choice because then my life would have gone in a completely different direction and the world would've never had the pleasure of knowing Hannah Elizabeth Tunnell. What about "the one that got away"? If I had married him, where would I be now? But that's his loss, not mine. If he was too stupid to realize what he had, he didn't deserve me! Absolutely no regret there! But how do we live with no regrets?

1. Acknowledge a mistake has been made - It is easy to play the blame game, pointing fingers at someone else or cirmcumstances as to why I have stumbled or why my life sucks. Taking personal ownership of my past actions that resulted in bringing about my current reality has been the first step to moving past regrets and moving toward a brighter future. I can now say that the failure of my first marriage was not all my ex-husband's fault, I played a part in it too.

2. Make amends - If my past actions or words have harmed others, apologies may be in order. Or not, as apologies can be tricky. I have to judge for myself if an apology will help matters or only drudge up old wounds better left alone. But, I definitely have to forgive myself! Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. Unfortunately, righting a wrong is not always feasible. There may be some past action that cannot be righted; so if there are, I must forgive myself, and let it go.
3. Do-overs - Sometimes feelings of regret arise not from our past actions, but from our non-actions. Do I regret not seeing Montana when we were in Sturgis in 2004? Sure, but while it may be too late to reverse that decision, I still have options. I can plan that trip to Montana, save money to pay for it and enjoy white water rafting when I get there.

4. Be grateful - The most valuable lessons learned in life often come from the mistakes we make. It may take a walk down a dark, scary alley to see clearly. So, I embrace my foolish actions, feel gratitude for making it out alive and eventually finding my way along a less-cluttered path.

5. Be careful not to repeat the same mistake - If I am repeatedly faced with similar difficulties over and over again, this is a sure bet that I have not learned the lessons these situations are trying to teach. Opportunity will surface once I take responsibility for faulty actions and change my current and future behaviors accordingly.

6. Be watchful of future knee-jerk reactions - This is probably the toughest step, not reacting negatively to situations or the people who tend to push your buttons. We don't always have control over the things life tosses in front of us, but we do control our reactions. I can tell you that I have been quite successful practicing this step. Don't sweat the small stuff!

7. Looking deeper inside - Birthdays make me thoughtful so I am re-evaluating the direction my life has taken. I have accepted that my past mistakes are just that --- in the past. I try to focus on today. But what are my future goals and desires? Setting clear intentions will help clear the path so that my life progresses with a freer heart and increased happiness. I have to believe that the best is yet to come!

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