After my last post on the theory of accepting regret and moving on, I thought I’d share some of my own techniques for dealing with regrets and worries:
1. The worry scroll
I can’t remember where I read about this idea but it’s a great one. When you’ve got something on your mind that you keep going over again and again, picture yourself removing the ribbon from an invisible scroll, opening it up and writing your worry down, then rolling it back up, retying the ribbon and throwing it into a corner.
This represents noting the problem down as something to worry about later. You’ll know it’s there and you haven’t forgotten about it, and you can plan a time to get the scroll out and do some serious concentrated worrying! Whenever you find yourself thinking about it just stop and remind yourself that you’re going to go back to it and worry about it later. (I don’t usually get to the going back to worry about it, having it written down ‘for later’ seems to be good enough for me!)
2. Someone is always regretting something worse than you
You only have to listen to the news to realise that your mistake is probably insignificant compared the worries of others. And I’m not just talking poverty, famine and war, there are people in this world living with the regret of awful and/or tragic actions. People locked up in prison for taking the life of someone else, whether intentionally or unintentionally, must be suffering immeasurably, and arguably a lot more than you or I are for choosing one job over another, ending a relationship, messing something up at work or the like. Never forget this.
3. For how long will this matter?
One of my personal favourites. Whenever I’m feeling like an idiot I ask myself: Will this matter tomorrow? (The answer is probably yes, it will still matter to me tomorrow.) Will this matter next week? (Depending on the issue, possibly still yes.) Will this matter in a month? (Quite possibly not.) Will this matter in a year? (With the majority of worries, probably not.) I also try to think back to previous worries and remember how quickly they stopped mattering to me. Mistakes fade as time passes and new events replace the memory of them.
4. What have you learnt?
No matter how stupid you feel or how big an error you think you’ve made, you can always find something to learn from it. Focus on this positive, however small, whether it’s the fact you’ll now better understand others who make similar mistakes or that you’ll never make this same error again yourself. You don’t want this feeling again any time soon, so don’t forget what you can learn to prevent yourself from repeating the same mistake again.
5. You worry and regret because you care
I mentioned this in my previous post on regret, and I’m repeating it again here because it stood out to me. We regret things because we care about our lives and our goals and our dreams. We want to get things right because we care about ourselves, our values, our integrity. If you ever stopped caring about these things, then you’d really have something to worry about!