Change Your Life In 2018 - January Challenge: Letting Go Of Regrets

If you’re just joining in, the “Change Your Life In 2018” series is my quest to make some small changes this year.  Rather than setting easily forgotten resolutions I wanted to focus on 12 changes that would help me learn and grow as a person.  I’ve chosen to focus on one change per month so that it could not only become a more manageable goal, but I have a better chance at making these new habits as well.  I hope you’ll join me in the challenge!

Forgive Others
How often do we find ourselves focused on the past?  Things we’ve said (or didn’t say), done, outcomes we aren’t happy with or decisions we’re second guessing.  How often do we say that we’ve moved on but inside we’re still churning over some piece of it?  Quite frankly, you are only lying to yourself when this happens.  And when you aren’t honest it’s only you who pays – no one else does.

What if I told you there was one thing you could do that would guarantee you to live in emotional pain and distress?  It would also guarantee you couldn’t move forward with feelings of happiness and contentment.  You would want to avoid it, correct?  Well that one thing is the inability to (honestly and whole-heartedly) let things go.

Emotional wounds are, by far, the hardest wounds to heal.  If you think about it, we don’t treat them as we treat any other wound we are inflicted with.  And that’s the problem…..we tend to ignore emotional wounds or say “it’s ok” and “I’m over it” which is, well, lip service if you haven’t truly put forth the effort to actually forgive and let go.

Forgiving isn’t about the person who wronged you, it’s about you.

When I hold resentment against someone, it doesn’t affect that person much at all.  Sure, they may know I don’t like them and they are bothered by it, but not equal to the anger that I’m holding with resentment.

I’m hurting myself.

Resentment, anger and hatred are debilitating.  When you forgive and let it go that doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened.  It also doesn’t mean that you are pardoning or excusing the other person.  It doesn’t mean that you need to tell them you forgive them.  It’s an emotional act that you are in control of and is purely for your benefit.

An example from my own life:  The job that I last worked in I had heard from an external business partner that my direct supervisor and a co-worker were saying hateful and hurtful things about me to the business partner at a meeting.  The business partner was very upset with the conversation and felt he should call and let me know.  He expressed anger, confusion and simply being uncomfortable with the entire thing.  I was angry.  REALLY angry.  I stood up, let my staff know I was leaving, and promptly left for the day because I was just so angry and I didn’t want to say something I’d later regret or make a rash decision.  Without going through all of the gory details, I will tell you that I chose to leave my employment.  I was already on the fence because of some other unethical choices the same two people had made, and this pushed me to my decision.

Once I left I was angry.  I was angry because of what happened.  I was angry because of what I felt had to be the outcome.  And I was angry because I wasn’t prepared (at all) for this outcome – emotionally or financially.

I held onto that anger for 2 years before I realized how much it was hurting me.  And then I chose to figure out what lessons I could learn from the entire series of events and forgive and let it go.  It doesn’t excuse their behavior.  It doesn’t mean I like either of them.  It simply means I wanted to give myself the opportunity to move on.

So that same previous supervisor ended up showing up at a farmer’s market I was working at one day last summer.  She stopped in front of my booth and smiled at me.  I was stunned.  I honestly wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  I walked out from behind my table, reached my arms out, hugged her, and told her that I hoped she was doing well.  She said the same to me and continued on.

I have absolutely no idea if what I did was right or wrong, but it felt right in the moment as I was trying to live in compassion.  If she’s being honest with herself then she knows what she did wrong – I have no obligation to try and tell her and, quite frankly, it felt good to just move past it.  I am so happy with where I am today versus where I was back then (career, life, everything) and know with certainty that leaving was what I needed to do anyway, that I’ve chosen to just be grateful for that and not lament over how it all happened.

Forgive Yourself
If you’re holding on to past regrets of things you’ve said or done, you are only hurting yourself.  And here’s the reality:

You’ve screwed up before and you’ll screw up again.  You’re human – it’s just a fact of life.  And no amount of useless guilt or self-criticism will change that.  

I say “useless” because guilt and self-criticism will not make you a better person.  Ever.  So if it adds no value at all, and only results in emotional pain and distress, then it’s useless.

Forgiving yourself and letting go of the past is one of the most powerful things you can do.  Why?  Because guilt and self-criticism are 2 of the most destructive things you can do.

Try to consciously become aware of your thoughts.  We spend an awful lot of our time lamenting things that have already happened.  Outcomes and facts that we can’t change.  The end result is that we’re living in the past rather than the present.  It makes it incredibly difficult for us to see potential opportunities that show themselves to us if we’re always looking backward.

How Do I Forgive?
So this is what I’ll be focusing on this month.  Going through these steps (promptly) when I find myself in the position of anger or resentment for someone else or upset and frustration with something I’ve done.

We all have different tactics that resonate, but one of the easiest to make into a habit is to:
Think about the action and physically feel it along with any pain associated with it.  Make yourself consciously aware.
Accept that it happened.  You can’t change it so you need to find acceptance.  Reflect to consider whether or not you can learn anything from the action at all.
Find compassion.  Whether it’s for yourself (if you are forgiving something you’ve done) or another person, find compassion for the person, not the action.
Once you’ve become consciously aware of the action, fully felt it, and found compassion for the person, you need to release it.

In the end, try to find compassion for yourself and for others and choose happiness and kindness over being right.

Next month’s topic is: Figure Out What To Do With Your Life

Find the introduction to the series here: 12 Things You Can Do To Change Your Life In 2018


  1. This resonates with me. I'll bet like me, you are hardest on yourself. I have been making a more conscious effort to stay in the present and not rehash events of the past. We need to treat ourselves as well as we would treat a cherished friend, with kindness and compassion. Easy to say, but so hard to do.

    Be Blissed!

  2. Thank you for this. I am getting ready to have to face some family members who have been extremely hurtful to both sides of their families. I've been angry and upset over things I can't change. So timely for me. I actually went through the steps at the end of your post and not only did I discover what I've learned but was able to release them into God's hands. I feel like a huge burden has been lifted from my soul. So again, thank you. I will be printing out the steps so I can remind myself.

  3. thanks so much Daisy and Cecilia!!
    Daisy - you are correct, I am incredibly hard on myself. I love your sentiment - treating ourselves as we would treat a cherished friend. And yes indeed, it is very hard in the moment....

    Cecilia - thank you for sharing this with me! I'm so happy that this has helped. And what a great idea to print it out for a reminder. :)


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