I recently read an article about Bronnie Ware, a former palliative nurse and author of the book “Top five regrets of the dying.” 

The article led me to reflect on the impact regrets can have on a person’s life. 

Most people who have lived long enough can think of a few things they would have done differently if they had the opportunity to go back in time.

While it makes sense to desire to do better, especially if people were hurt as a result of your decisions, sometimes we let our previous shortcomings and failures consume us. 

When our mistakes drain us, we carry a heavy burden, which prevents us from moving forward. 

Doing the work to heal and learn to overcome regret is a much healthier alternative. Here are a few steps to overcome regret.

Forgive yourself

Learning to forgive yourself is necessary to move forward. Forgiving yourself does not mean you don’t have guilt. Forgiving yourself is showing compassion to yourself and accepting that you did wrong without carrying the weight of the past everywhere you go. 

We often tend to look at people that we admire, forgetting that nobody is perfect and they made mistakes too. 

We have to show the same grace to ourselves and accept that making mistakes or failing is part of life. We can’t let our failures consume us and hold us back. We have to forgive ourselves to move forward.

Identify the lesson

To overcome regret, it is necessary to take the time to reflect on the lesson(s) that our shortcomings can teach us. We have to seek growth from the experience to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

When I was in my early twenties, I convinced my now husband to invest in a travel franchise with me.

I enjoyed personal travel and thought it would be a good way to earn money while helping people with their travel plans. I also believed that being a franchisee would be beneficial to us.
However, it turned out that having a franchise in that industry came with a lot more restrictions than advantages.
Selling travel was not as attractive for me as a business, as I initially anticipated.

The experience taught me the importance of having a thorough competitive analysis and understanding industry margins.
While it was an expensive lesson, I also learned that enjoying an activity as a hobby does not always translate into the right professional fit.

Seek forgiveness

We all make mistakes, some more serious than others. Being remorseful is a step in the right direction, but we have to take it a step further and seek forgiveness.

Asking others who were affected by your decisions for forgiveness is key to overcoming regret. 

Nelson Mandela, one of the most admired leaders in history, often talked about his mistakes as a young man and freedom fighter. He showed the world the power of forgiveness when he chose to promote reconciliation in his country.

By embracing forgiveness of his oppressors, he became an even greater inspiration throughout the world.

Mistakes are bound to happen in life. They can change us for the better if we learn from them and choose forgiveness.

Do better

Once you have learned forgiveness and sought forgiveness from those affected by your previous bad decisions, you can take a different route.
Don’t miss out on upcoming blessings because you are so focused on the past.

Healing from previous mistakes requires making better decisions in the future. When you can see yourself and witness true evolution in your actions, you are in a position to overcome regret.

You can take it a step further and help prevent others from making the same mistake(s).
If you made a mistake when you were younger, you have the opportunity to educate others and warn them about your mistakes and how they impacted you.

Shaka Senghor is a New York Times Best Selling author, college lecturer, and a leading voice in criminal justice reform. Before being a guest on Oprah’s show and having a TED talk watched by millions of viewers, he spent 19 years in prison, 7 of them in solitary confinement.
His book, Writing My Wrongs, is a reminder that our mistakes don’t define who we are. We can grow from them and help others avoid those mistakes.

Focus on what you can do now to prevent future regrets.

The past is behind you. Once you have healed from it, how do you prevent future regrets?
You can make the decision moving forward to take a more pro-active approach. According to Bronnie Ware, here are the top 5 regrets of the dying.

I wish I’d dared to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

(Read more about each of these regrets here.)

You can’t rewrite the past, but the future is still a blank page.

Is there anything you can change in your life to avoid having those regrets?

“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.” Terri St. Cloud