How to Overcome Regret

How to Overcome Regret

How to Overcome Regret

Does what you want to forget cling to you with jaws of steel? Do you know how to overcome regret and let it go?

Cicero said, “Teach me the art of forgetting; for I often remember what I would not, and cannot forget what I would.”

What would you do differently now that you know better? The first step is to learn to not repeat your mistakes, and realize as well that you are not responsible for the mistakes of others.

Then, become clear what your high ideals are, and devote yourself to living up to them. When you do, you’ll find you have less and less to regret. The past becomes a mere consortium of all the good that has transpired and all the lessons that were learned.

For every unworthy thing you do that you regret, there is a counterpoint of a better course of action. You can meet and master bad traits by replacing them with worthy ones, and it behooves you to make these swaps, even though it is sometimes a mighty struggle.  For example, if you are cowardly, cultivate bravery; if you are wishy-washy, practice decisiveness; if you are easily tempted, nurture a taste for what is more truly satisfying; if you are judgmental, find a way to be more unconditionally loving.

The more you consecrate yourself to actually doing this kind of effort, your life and experience will radiate with fidelity, humility, and appropriate responsibility. Living out from your highest ideals, you’ll be not only be more joyous, but also will no longer be creating things to regret in the future.  Endeavoring to make your current behavior beyond reproach, or at least actively learning from your mistakes, means you won’t need to spend your future cleaning up a newly manufactured minefield of regret.

So once you’ve got your now, and therefore your future, on solid ground, what about that gnawing regret from the past you need to get over?

Forgiveness is the first key, and often I’ve found it is forgiving yourself, not others, which especially counts. Forgive yourself that you don’t have a perfect past, and don’t let that fact drag you from a stellar now, which determines your bright future. If you/they knew how to do it better you/they would have. Some serious compassion for yourself and others, instead of pity or frustration, relieves the downward pull of the past. Forgiveness removes resentment and regret through love, and frees us from wallowing in self-condemnation.

Additionally, you can mentally revise and expunge your past, since it is like a record of dreams. Simply imagine it different; if it was, how would that ripple forward, who would you be now, and how would you be feeling? There are a zillion ways to tinker with reframing what is bothersome or burdensome in your past. You choose the way to represent to yourself what happened, so pick a perspective you find empowering. What revision brings the most peace and ushers in the most progress going forward?

Your past does not determine who you are. It’s not what happens to us that determines anything, but rather, how we respond. And it is never too late to adjust either our responses or perspectives.

And lastly, gratitude is important, especially in cases of loss. When we regret not getting more of something or someone, we can shift our thinking to thankfulness for what we did have. The miracle is that when we are grateful, we are prepared to receive more, even when that doesn’t seem possible.

I have been hugely benefited by loosening the clutch of regret through forgiveness, reframing, and finding gratitude where I could. But more than anything, realizing I can reach for my high ideals in how I behave right now, and respond in each present moment with the greatest integrity, kindness, and initiative, helps me to avoid regret in the future. Today gives us plenty of opportunities to focus on making the best choices, and prioritizing them in the best way.

Use your intuition and embrace each moment without being deflected or distracted by your past. Now is the only time you can really do anything about, so seize the day, and be the best you can, allowing yourself lots of margin and hope for improvement.

I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


  1. tara 1 year ago

    this is good to remember Polly :) thank you

  2. Brian G 1 year ago

    Come walk through the Word
    And let it be heard,
    That the ghosts of the past are to be driven;
    Into the void
    From whence they ne’er came,
    And are unseen by the One arisen.

  3. Meg+Hanson 1 year ago

    Thank you for those helpful insights. I have thought a lot about how to think about brilliant famous people from the past (and in the present I guess) who made important contributions, but also did things that today we consider unacceptable. (example Thomas Jefferson). I don’t think we can judge them for where society was at then or what was considered OK then. The same goes for our own history of things we said or didn’t say, or did or didn’t do that we may regret now. We can only go forward from where we are and strive to be our best now. In thinking about how we cannot be hurt or limited by something from the past, one thing that helped me is understanding that there really only is right now.

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