Empty Out Regrets
How do I know this? Because we’ve all done things we regret.
I pride myself in not carrying regrets. Recently, however, I’ve been carrying around a lot of regrets. I spent a great deal of money last year on programs to help me boost my business and I’ve been disappointed in the results. I can get pretty hard on myself around that one. I was beating myself up recently about all this, so I turned to my Inner Wisdom.
I hear, “You could spend the rest of your life being miserable about this OR you
could say, ‘Just so,’ and move on.”
Then in the most loving, matter-of-fact way my Inner Wisdom tells me “You made
some really bad choices.”
I am struck by this simple statement of fact, completely free of any recrimination. It’s true. I made some bad choices. No fault. No blame. Just so.
My Inner Knowing asks me, “So what are you going to do about that? Beat yourself
up for the rest of your life?”
I joke, “How about the next six months?”
Lightly, my Inner Knowing replies, “You could do that,” and then continues, “What does that accomplish?”
I respond, “Well, if I beat myself up, then I’ll really know that it was wrong and it will make it more likely that I won’t do it again.”
As I hear myself saying these words, I recognize how familiar this deeply engrained
belief really is. It has driven my self-critical behavior for decades. I don’t even believe it anymore, but I’m still acting as if it were true. I see so clearly how much pain I create when I fall back into old habits that don’t work.
My inner knowing points out to me how pervasive this belief is in our culture: beating yourself up will somehow make you do better.
I hear, “You can release that. No matter how pervasive a belief may be, you always have
a choice. There are better ways to learn from your experience.”
At that moment I accidentally knock over a glass. The water spills all over the rug.
My Inner Wisdom tells me that at any moment when I am suffering with regrets,
I could be empty instead. It would be much better to be empty.
At any moment you can empty out painful regrets. Just turn the glass over and empty it out. If you have a bucket full of regrets, turn the bucket over and empty it out. If you have a tub full of regrets, turn the tub over and empty it out. It’s better to be empty than to carry those regrets around forever. At any moment you can empty your regrets over the past.
Is this not a better way to live? Of course it is.
Here are three things you can do to empty out regrets:
1. Have compassion for the one who did whatever it is you regret (that would be you).
You may regret the choices you made at the time, but it’s important to recognize that
when you made those choices, you were doing the very best you knew how. Even if you knew at the time that what you were doing could be mistaken, had you been able to do it differently, you would have.
Many years ago, my Inner Wisdom showed me that when somebody you love does something that you see is not good for them, the proper response is not anger. It’s sadness.
It’s natural to regret choices that didn’t work out. You can acknowledge the sadness of unfortunate outcome and encourage yourself to do better next time. It is never helpful to be angry with yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.
2. Imagine yourself emptying out your regrets any time they appear
Take a few deep breaths and relax. Close your eyes. Imagine taking your regrets and
pouring them into a container. The container can be as big as needed to hold all of your regrets.
Then, imagine yourself getting rid of that container. You could spill out the container and let the regrets flow away. One client wrapped her regrets up in a bundle and gave it to a seabird to carry out and drop into the ocean. Another put his regrets into a wooden box
which he set on fire. When nothing remained but some ashes, he swept them away.
Will the regrets return? If carrying regrets is a familiar old habit for you, of course they will. But if you are consistent in letting them go, if you repeat your emptying ritual over and over again anytime they latch on to you, if you simply refuse to pick them up whenever they appear, eventually they will recognize that it’s hopeless and fade away.
3. Learn from your experience
What is the most valuable thing you have?
What’s the source of good judgment?
What’s the source of experience?
Whatever mistakes you have made, there is opportunity for learning there that you can
use to do better in the future.
Rather than beating yourself up, look carefully at the experience. Really study it. Identify what you can learn from this experience that will help you to do better in the future.
The moment you are living in is too precious to be ruined by regrets. Empty them out!