Managing Regrets and Disappointments


Hindsight is perfect, and that is both helpful and a trap. It is helpful to look back and see how we might have done things differently so that we can make better choices now.

When our thoughts get stuck in what should or should not have happened in our life, hindsight can prevent us from enjoying the present and moving productively into the future.

Living inside our hindsight is the same as driving our car forward while staring into the rearview mirror. We are likely to steer the car into a ditch, or major depression.

All of us need to create a mental scrapbook labeled “Things to Accept or Forgive.” Inside the scrapbook we put all of those memories that cause us embarrassment, regret, frustration, or disappointment. We put them there not to forget they exist, but to contain them.

We can open the scrapbook at any time to let ourselves feel what we feel and wish what we wish about life's events. Then, the scrapbook needs to be closed and put on a quiet neuron shelf until we choose to take it down and reopen it, or not.

Mental Scrapbook: Three Things to Accept or Forgive

  1. Allowing Ourselves to be Influenced
    All of us are influenced as we grow up by our culture, family, teachers, and peers. We may give up authentic parts of our self because they were not shown approval, we figured out they did not please others, or those parts were given disapproval.

    Abandoning parts of our self, or our dreams, may lead to adult withdrawal, perfectionism, or antisocial behavior (to name a few possibilities). However, children let go of aspects of themselves to be loved and accepted. That is what children (of all ages) do.

    The only way to recover those lost parts of our self is to let any blame or anger we have about the loss come and go freely, as ocean waves. When the memories involved are held in our nifty mental scrapbook, the feelings slowly lose their intensity and frequency.
  2. Making Dumb, Stupid, Illogical, or Impulsive Decisions
    Even well-reasoned and researched decisions can have surprising consequences, but the choices that are really hard to live with are those that make us think, “I’m such an idiot.”

    It takes practice to know the difference between reliable gut instinct and runaway enthusiasm, or between valuable intuition and the desire for instant gratification. Even when we are practiced decision makers, there is no guarantee all of our choices will be wise.

    If your life seems to be a continuous string of bad decisions, you may need to obtain better problem-solving, communication, or emotional management skills. Consider putting your past choices in a mental scrapbook, and seek some professional help. Individual or group therapy, or a skill group (e.g., problem solving) can help.
  3. Being a Disappointing Person
    If you have not disappointed yourself or others in any way, you are a rare person indeed. Even people who are accomplished have disappointments and regrets.

    None of us can be everything. We all make choices as we grow up that eliminate certain things from our lives. For instance, we choose which of our interests will become our livelihood and which our hobbies. Some interests we may let go of entirely.

    If we take the time to discover what our own idea of a successful life looks like (what we want written on our tombstone), we can make choices today that will help us create a satisfying life. All we can do is move forward from where we are now.

With our disappointments safely tucked away in our mental scrapbook, we can focus on the things we sincerely want or the person we hope to become. This does not guarantee we will always be happy with ourselves, but we will be more of the time.


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