Getting Over Regret: How To Move On

By Anni


On multiple occasions, I’ve heard people say something along the lines of “I don’t have any regrets. It all just made me who I am today.”

To which my imaginary response is always “Good for you, but that doesn’t really help me much.”  It’s awesome if you have achieved perfect self love and you are really happy with where you are today and who you are.

Guess what guys? I’m not there. I’m not perfectly happy with where I am today.  And many things I struggle with today are a direct result of the choices I have made in the past. So hell yeah, I have regrets.  I greatly regret some of my life choices.

But at the same time…  No matter how terribly you have screwed up in the past, dwelling in your mistakes forever and ever is not going to get you closer to where you want to be.

So how exactly do you move on from the past?  How do you let go of regret?

Well, getting over regret is definitely not the easiest of tasks, but it can be done.  In this post, I’m sharing the three steps that have worked for me when I’ve stumbled, but needed to pick myself back up.

Do you have regrets and mistakes in your past you have a hard time dealing with? This is my story of getting over regret + how to move on from the past in three steps.

Getting Over Regret

1. Mourn Your Loss

It might be tempting to try to find the silver lining and spin your mistakes into a positive. But my experience has been that in order to really let go of feelings, you need to fully feel them first.  If you keep trying to sugar-coat them or suppress them, they will just keep on hanging on around the edges of your consciousness trying with all their might to get your attention, circling like vultures around dead prey.

So instead of fighting your feelings, give in to them. Address them. Give them your full attention. Let yourself dwell.

Inside your mind, in writing, or in conversation – whatever works for you best – acknowledge your mistake and how sad you feel about it. Acknowledge what you lost as a result and let yourself have a good cry or two or three over it.

My biggest regret in life has been my career. I picked the wrong major in college and conveniently realized it right around the time I graduated with a master’s degree. For a looong time, like more than a decade, I tried to “make the best of it” working in a field that wasn’t quite right for me doing tasks that weren’t quite right. It’s not like I was totally miserable the whole time, but the nagging feeling was always there, at regular intervals popping up to the surface in the form of a major melt-down. (More like a toddler-style temper tantrum, but I’ll call it a melt-down since I’m supposed to be a grown-up. 😉 )

Until I finally fully gave in and acknowledged that I had royally fucked this one up. I acknowledged that I had made a terrible mistake. I deeply regretted not making a different choice when I picked a major. I deeply regretted not changing course sooner when I first realized my mistake.

When I finally let myself, I spent a long time crying over the years of my life wasted on work that wasn’t meaningful to me. The years that I could have been finding my way on the path that I now know is right for me.

But you know what? Eventually all that crying did come to an end. The tears dried up. I had fully mourned my loss and those feelings of deep regret don’t live inside me anymore.

2. Forgive Yourself

To move on from the past, to leave it behind, you also need to be able to forgive yourself. For me at least, this step can take a long time. It’s not a single event, but a war of many battles.

It’s a war between your inner critic – the perfectionist voice in your head that berates and condemns – and the kind and loving person you want to be.

Whenever the inner critic gears up for battle, here’s what the kind voice needs to say:

You did the best you could at the time. If you had known better, you would have done better. If you had been capable of doing better, you would have done better. You didn’t have all the knowledge and wisdom and maturity and strength and emotional intelligence and self awareness then that you have now. You did the best you could with what you had.

Don’t compare yourself to others. This is your unique journey alone. The starting point for one person’s journey is never the same as another person’s. You were born with your unique combination of personality traits and characteristics. You were born into your unique family situation. The gifts you have been given and the obstacles you have climbed over along the way are unique to you. Your situation is never the same as another person’s. Where you are on your journey can never be compared to where someone else is on theirs, because your starting line was not the same.

In my life, the kind side eventually won the war against my inner critic. I did my best in my teens and twenties, but I didn’t know everything I know now. I was making big decisions all on my own, with virtually no guidance or support from anyone. How could I have known my purpose in helping others, when I didn’t even know how to help myself yet? How could I have known my place would be on the internet, when the internet hadn’t even been invented yet? (I’m not making this up, guys. I was already in college when someone told me about a new invention called the World Wide Web. 😉 )

To this day, I wish I had gotten into something more suitable for me earlier on, but I know why I didn’t and I forgive myself.

3. Focus on Changing The Future

In the end, letting your past go boils down to this lovely cliche: The past is past. There’s nothing you can do to change it.

But there is a whole lot you can do about the future.

I’m done being a perfectionist and I know there will be more mistakes that I will regret in my future. But regret is not a fun feeling, and I do my best with where I am today to make choices I won’t regret in the future.

So my advice to you my friend is to turn your gaze ahead.

What lesson did you learn from your mistake?

What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

And now that you know better, what will you do better?

Starting today.

I have my career regrets, but I can tell you this: Five years from now, I will not be regretting the career choices I made today.

P.S. Want Some Help With Changing The Future?

If you are ready to think about moving on, you might be interested in my free video class.  You’ll learn:

  • The SECRET to creating a lifestyle that maximizes happiness and minimizes stress.
  • The simple 5-step framework for turning your life around even if it seems way out of reach and you have no clue how to get started.
  • The 3 critical mistakes that keep people stuck in life and how YOU can avoid them.

If you are interested, just enter your email address in the form below so I can send you an access link.

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About the author 

Anni

Hi! I'm a life coach, a Certified MBTI® Practitioner, and a mentor for stressed out introverts and highly sensitive people. I used to be one myself! My mission is to help you discover your true self and create a life you ACTUALLY like.

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  1. Anne Kennedy, you’ve done it again about career choices were not the ones that fulfilled my soul; I’ve had a checkered career searching for the right niche, made many wrong choices, had many jobs from office boy to executive in training to CEO level, and to the astonishment to all, quit that wrong path for me and became a………….Letter Carrier, where I was as happy as a pig in slop…………………….Robert W. Foy.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂 It’s awesome that you finally found something that makes you happy. I delivered newspapers in high school, so I can definitely understand the appeal. 🙂

  2. This article really made me feel better–I’m still searching for the “right” career but have been so weighed down because I’ve felt like I wasted so much time and messed up any future possibilities. Thank you for this insight and hope for a better path that’s still hopefully out there.

  3. I have beaten myself up for my career choice. I felt so guilty for being away from my kids , distracted and stressed and it seems it was all for nothing. I was a really good landscape designer. My clients loved my work, but I was unhappy. I hated the assholes I worked for. None of them cared about the clients. The stress,long hours, no spring/ summer fun. I left two yrs ago and still can’t figure out what to do with myself. I was very passionate about my work. Now I’m not passionate about anything. I don’t want to go back, but I miss the passion.

    1. I’m really into interior design, so I can totally see the draw of landscape design. Too bad the assholes ruined it for you. Assholes suck. I hope you can find a way to add the passion back in.

  4. I have been on and read many sites..I’ve never commented on any of them, though some were really good. I have to say, your site, hands down, has been my favorite. Thank you for sharing all this info. My dream is to leave my stressful job, work from home doing something..anything lol! My dream is to blog about issues just like the ones i’ve read on your site today. I also love photography. Your site has been such an inspiration to me today. Thank you so much for being an inspiration.

  5. Anni,
    You are an amazing writer! I stumbled across your site in my constant search for self-improving articles to conquer anxiety, worry, regret and fear. I love how you bluntly get to the point. Boy did I need this article today as I have continually struggled with my own poor life choices in the last 12 years since my husband and I at the time separated and subsequently divorced. My mind has beaten me up on a daily basis over my poor choices since my divorce and whether or not to finally write that letter to my ex apologizing for how my behavior and decisions hurt and confused him. I’ve withdrawn that gesture on days he doesn’t live up to what I feel our boys deserve from their father. But it’s time to write it and FINALLY let go of my regrets, the hurt and focus on what is to come and not what was.

    1. Hi Mary, thank you so much for the kind words and for sharing your story. It sounds like you are about to make a major breakthrough!

  6. Anni
    First of all your article is amazing just wanted to put it there. Yes i suffer from everything you wrote about ,as for myself i was married for 25years and my ex-wife yes we had our good times and bad but i was never appreciated or it was wrong i can gi on and on.I come to understand that i as a man can move on but its really hard. Just wanted you to know that. I work in helping people in need mostly Veterans, but it comes for me to asked for help thats the hard part all i know is how to help other people, im starting to ramble on just wanted to thank you for yiur insight.

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