When things don’t work out the way you want, this is how to recover
It’s a wonderful idea to believe that you can craft your life so that you’ll have no regrets. The truth is, that’s largely unrealistic. Even if you try really hard. Why? Because you’re human and living without regrets presumes that every choice you make will be the right one. Or that every conversation or every relationship will go exactly to plan.
Guess what, it won’t.
Now that’s not to say there isn’t a place for setting out your intention of how you want to live or the achievements you aspire to. In fact, those are important but even when you’re rock solid on your values and have a high level of self-awareness, not everything is going to turn out the way you hope.
That’s why it’s best to acknowledge that there will be regrets and disappointments and then learn how to deal with them. It’s far better for your mental health and overall life satisfaction, not to mention your personal growth.
Here’s how to cope with your feelings of regret so that you don’t get lost in that emotion and are able to move on.
The first step to healing regret is acknowledging it
When you’re finally ready to admit your regret, there’s a great place to hash it out. A journal. That’s right. Write it out. Lean into the situation which hasn’t turned out the way that you wanted and express all your emotions in a safe way.
What specifically are you feeling? Disappointment is often at the head of the list. Sadness too. Perhaps a wistfulness for what it was or might have been.
While you’re writing, delve deeper into the situation. For instance, if it’s relationship related, write out the specifics of your disappointment. What you’d hoped for and what it was. Write about the gap, what you hadn’t seen or didn’t know going in that you know now. Then, consider forgiving yourself.
We need to forgive ourselves. For all the things we didn’t do. All the things we should have done. You can’t get stuck on the regrets of what should have happened.”Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
Is your regret an aspiration regret?
This can fall into something you’ve been dreaming of, and the chance has passed you by. Or something you tried that didn’t work out or didn’t work out the way you hoped.
For instance, despite pursuing many of my dreams and aspirations, there are some choices that if I had a do-over, I’d approach differently. One of these was writing my book. The regret lies not in the writing, but in the people I chose to help me with bringing it into the world. You see there’s the writing and then there’s the “book birthing”, from manuscript to finished product.
One of my regrets is not hiring well.
Specifically, choosing an editor whose plate was full and who charged in a different currency. The result of the first was that the turnaround time was delayed. That meant that my rewrites were also delayed, and so was the final publish date. In turn, this pushed back some of the promotional ideas I’d wanted to pursue but couldn’t.
And secondly, I regretted not doing a better job of budgeting. Had I paid more attention and considered the cost/benefit of the currency being charged, I may have chosen differently.
This is where the business side of me needed to move to the forefront. You see the writing was still fresh in my blood and I hadn’t detached from the work as I suspect would have benefitted the next decisions. When I searched for an editor, I became enamored with someone who fit my niche of personal growth with a spiritual slant.
I wanted my “book baby” to be received well. That’s fair but disregarding the currency and not looking further or longer meant I paid for it later. Had I gone with a local editor, which was very possible, it would have saved me hundreds of dollars.
But I didn’t know what I didn’t know which is true of most first efforts and why regret is more likely. The remedy to having less regret lies in what you do with it.
Overcoming regret with a growth mindset
If you choose to review what hasn’t worked out by writing your thoughts and emotions out in a journal, accepting there are no do-overs, only better efforts, you give yourself a true gift. That gift is using a growth mindset for your future endeavors.
A growth mindset is both a way of thinking and an approach to anything you do. Essentially, it’s a practice that is steeped in continued learning. Learning by doing, learning by seeking help, and learning to review what did and didn’t work, so you can do better the next time.
In terms of living without regret, the growth mindset might be the only way to get close to achieving that. And yet, we’re human and when things don’t work out the way you hope they will, disappointment is a reasonable feeling. What a growth mindset gives you is the courage to try again.
Whether that’s in a relationship, a career, or your hobbies, once you’re able to deal with the feelings that lead to regret, you’ll then have the tools to try again. Those tools can help you make peace with your human errors so that you can move forward. Because yes, regret is human, and finding the courage to try, try again is a better goal than living with no regrets.