Are there things you wished you had done? The class you never took, the things you should’ve said to your father before he passed away, the business idea you didn’t pursue that turned out to be the hottest trends of the year?
We all have a few ‘shouldas, wouldas, couldas.’ These unfinished emotional business can hold us back, even subconsciously. Here are some ways to let the regrets go for good.
Write down your regrets.
Might as well get them out in the open. Grab a pen and paper and force yourself to list everything (and I mean everything!) that you wish you had done differently. Some of these may amuse you, others will feel like a punch in the stomach. Use the categories to take an inventory of your regrets.
a. I’ve always wanted to _____. This could be a vacation to another country, a business, or any dream (big or little) you’ve shoved on a shelf.
b. I wish I could change _____. but haven’t. Is this an attitude (like being negative or a worry-wart) or a habit (like procrastinating).
c. I never got to finish _______. Like putting the family photos in an album. Or reading all the works of Shakespeare. Or fixing your closet.
d. I’ve always wanted to say _____. Think of all the one-liners or heart-to-heart talks you wished you had had with an ex, an old boss, a parent, etc.
e. I’ve always wanted to learn _______. Could be a class, a skill, a language.
f. I’ve always wanted to express _________. This could be suppressed anger, grief, frustration, or even regret (that’s what this exercise is for!)
Divide and conquer
Review your list and give yourself timelines for each. You can even make a chart. In one column, right down ‘Now.’ Go call up that community college and sign up for that French class. Download a Shakespeare book and read the first chapter with your next cup of coffee. Write an email to your mom telling her how much you love her. You get the drill.
In the second column, write ‘Later’ with a specific date. After all it’s unlikely you can take the next plane to Greece. But set a deadline, and then break it down into tasks. Find out how much you need to save. Search for travel deals.
In the third, write, ‘Complete.’ This is the best list. It’s the list you have decided, right now, that you are not going to do, and feel great not doing it! Declare that you are emotionally complete. This can be saying, ‘I’m okay even if I don’t tell my ex husband off. I don’t need him to be miserable to be happy.’
For more tips on living your best life, read our article on getting the most out of your life
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