5 Powerful Traits of People Who Rarely Experience Regret

To some extent, we all hold on to the past. I know I have memories I would rather forget. But the thing about memories is that they become blurry with time. We lose focus on the truth and subconsciously change the narrative.

I’ve even tried to convince myself that my negative memories were just nightmares, something I made up, something I could forget about. But in the back of my mind, I always knew the memories weren’t fictional. And I’ve come to learn that that’s not a bad thing. It’s an incredible thing.

Instead of trying to rewrite history, we should find value in who we are today because of our decisions. Focusing on our past through a lens of anguish will blind us from the real value of making mistakes. Regret is only an anchor that will hold us down and keep us chained to our past while dreaming of what could have been.

But we don’t have to think that way. We can change our mindset and control our thoughts to view the past in a different light. Here are six traits of someone who has learned to find value in their mistakes.

1. They Understand That Regret is an Afterthought

Every decision we make is the right one. We do the best we can with what we have at that moment and who we are — and we’re being true to ourselves, and that’s all we can ask.

We should never wish to go back in time to get a re-do when the reason we made our decision was that it felt right in the moment. Those who don’t experience regret carry this knowledge with them through life.

Losing a friend because of brutal honesty, ending a relationship because of contrasting future plans, or going on an adventure that had a painful ending because we love exploring are examples of situations where our values would impact our decisions.

Regretting them means that we haven’t accepted the reason behind our choice. We’ll never regret something before we’ve made up our minds. So we can find comfort in knowing that regret is an afterthought since we did our best at that moment.

The reason behind our regret doesn’t matter. It doesn’t justify why we allow ourselves to look back on a decision with bitterness. If we felt that our decision was the right one when we made it, the outcome shouldn’t change that feeling.

And if we ever want to be at peace with our actions without looking back in anguish, we have to understand that everything we do is done with our best intention in mind.

2. They Accept That They Don’t Know the Outcome of the Alternative

If we think about it, regret is a restricting emotion. It serves us with nothing but negativity, and the worst part is that we subconsciously decide to feel that way.

I recently listened to someone speak about an experience he had as a child. Let’s call him Henry. Henry and his brother were late to the school bus one morning, and their irresponsibility frustrated their parents.

They missed the first bus and had to catch the next one, resulting in being late for class. Typically, this would mean that they would be late and have to awkwardly sneak into class. But on their way to school, they drove past the smoking, burning bus they meant to be in. Had they been on time that day, they would have been dead.

Suddenly, deciding to take a morning shower and ending up late turned from a bad decision into a life-saving one. My point is we never know what would have happened if we had chosen the other option.

We can fantasize about how much better our life would have been had we taken a different road, but it’s all in our imagination. We can never be sure about what could have been, and it could have ended a lot worse than it did.

3. They Accept That Their Past Is in the Past

There is no reason to give our painful memories any space or significance in our present. It’s a circumstance, which means it’s neutral and doesn’t signify any emotion. We can’t change what happened — it is what it is. The past is over, and that’s a great thing.

The Self Coaching Model explains how we can detach our emotions from circumstances and rebuild our thoughts more healthily. It’s a great method to help us understand why we experience negative emotions and, more importantly, how we can take control of our thoughts surrounding a particular circumstance.

Research has shown that we often forget things soon after we learn them. It’s the repetition that creates long-term memories. Repeating our past in our mind is only cementing the memory with all our haunting emotions into our thoughts.

Rather than revisiting our memories and the painful emotions that arise, we should understand that the only reason why we associate negative emotions with our memories is that we keep them alive through sentences in our thoughts.

4. They Know How to Change the Narrative

We don’t experience regret because we made the wrong decision but because we learned something from it. If we didn’t learn what our mistake was, we wouldn’t be experiencing regret. Our choice led to a less-than-favourable outcome, but that choice taught us something. We learned that we didn’t like the results so that we won’t make the same mistakes again.

Freeing ourselves of mental and emotional anguish comes down to finding the silver lining. In the case of regret, the answer is often to acknowledge what we gained from the situation.

Research has shown that memories change with time. Every time we bring our memories back to life in our thoughts, the story changes slightly. And that’s amazing because it means that we can rewrite it. Even though the storyline will remain the same, we can decide how the story plays out.

Instead of letting our memories decide what emotion we felt during the event, we can acknowledge that we feel grateful for what we learned and let gratitude replace the negativity.

It’s okay to forgive ourselves for making the wrong choice and let go of any pain associated with our memories. We came out the other end wiser than we were before, and we might have prevented something worse by making the decision we made. Find the silver lining.

5. They See the Beauty in Regret

If we go back to basics, regret consists of two things. An action and our imagination. We experience regret because we imagine we could be happier if we did something differently. We imagine we could prevent suffering if we had taken the other road, and we imagine what could have happened instead.

The keyword being imagination. It’s our imagination that creates regret by acknowledging the possibilities. Our thoughts travel back in time to before we made our decision, then fast forward to the present, all while creating a completely different story. A different reality. A better life.

But it’s also our imagination that creates nightmares, horror movies, and fiction books. In other words, our imagination is wild, unexpected, and completely made up. Nothing about our imagination is real. That’s what makes it so great. It’s what makes us creative.

Experiencing regret means that we have an imagination. We create an alternate reality in our minds where our best selves can roam free in a land of unrealistic perfect decision-making. And for what? So that we can feel bad about ourselves?

People who have never felt like they could have done something differently or considered if they took a wrong turn are either psychopaths or have damage to their orbitofrontal cortex. So being able to feel regret is a good thing. It makes us functional, human, and humane. And it also makes us creative. But learning how to let go of regret helps us create a better future.

Final Thoughts

It’s a beautiful thing to realize that we can live the rest of our lives doing the opposite of what caused us to feel regret. We can prove to ourselves that we learned something from our actions.

Revisiting and lamenting the past is a waste of time. We should strive to look forward rather than backwards — it’s the most inspiring and freeing thing we can do.

The point isn’t to stop regretting our past; it’s to stop hating ourselves for having regrets. It’s normal to feel like we should have done something differently. But once we decide to relieve ourselves of any mental anguish and remind ourselves that we’re always just trying our best, we realize that regret is an emotion that has no place in our thoughts.

When we’re lying on our deathbeds, the only thing we will feel is sorrow that we ever let regret have a place in our lives. While we’re still here, on this earth, making mistakes and learning, feeling regret is the most confining thing we can do.

You get to decide the narrative of your life. So don’t turn your story against yourself.

Enjoyed this article? Share it with your friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *