Can you believe it’s Christmas next week? The year has flown by. For many people, it’s been a tough year. Let’s face it, the past two years have been challenging and given rise to feelings of guilt and regret over failed relationships, missed opportunities, or not having the chance to say “goodbye” to loved ones. 

What are we supposed to do? At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, we’re supposed to learn, grow, grieve, and keep engaging life. No matter how dark, sad, or bitter life has become, even if our decisions and choices are to blame for most of our pain, we are to move forward one tiny baby step at a time, through sheer will if we must because what other option is there?

Guilt and regret damage our mental and emotional well-being if they become a fruitless obsession that punishes the soul with darkness and paralyzing self-blame. We stop living and merely exist. And that’s no way to live because that’s not living at all.

Let’s give ourselves the gift of a clean slate this year, starting now.

The Difference Between Regret and Guilt

Regret is focusing on something you’ve done in the past and wishing you hadn’t done it. Maybe it was a “bad” decision that altered the course of your life or a missed opportunity that you’ve been beating yourself up for not taking.

Guilt is something you feel when you’ve done something wrong, specifically if it affects someone close to you.

Guilt rarely comes from making a mistake; regret almost always comes from something you wish you had done differently.

It isn’t easy to rise and soar above these emotions because they anchor your spirit to the ground. If you’re not careful, they’ll drag you down into oppressive darkness, imprisoning and haunting you with thoughts and feelings of what might have been.

The First Step to Overcoming Guilt and Regret

Look, this isn’t 1985, you’re not Doc Brown, and you don’t have a time-traveling Delorean (if you do, you have better things to do with your time than reading blogs in the year 2021).

No matter how much guilt or regret you feel, it’s impossible to travel back in time and fix things. Life moves in only one direction: forward.

But just because you can’t change the past doesn’t mean you can’t change your future! You are a co-creator of your reality and master of your destiny.

If you’ve been struggling with guilt, realize everyone makes mistakes! Yes, you were wrong to treat someone the way you did. Apologize to them, if possible. Taking responsibility for your mistakes releases you from the past so you can move forward. Once you’ve admitted and apologized for your actions and made any necessary restitution, learn from the situation to ensure it won’t happen again and make peace with your past so you can get busy living again.

And remember, sometimes the person from whom you need forgiveness most is you.

Getting over regret is a little different. Yes, recognizing mistakes and forgiving yourself is still part of the process, but you must also remember the truth. For example, people often regret ending relationships because they focus on the good instead of all the unhealthy stuff when they look back. Reminding yourself why you had to change things makes dealing with regret easier.

Step 2: Set a Timeline for Letting Go of Guilt and Regret

Are you ready to rid your life of guilt and regret once and for all?

An easy way to do this is by setting a timeline.

You can move on now if you’d like. But some people, for whatever reason, seem to require “emotional penance” before they can move on. If that sounds like you, how much more time do you need to be haunted by guilt and regret before you feel you have life’s permission to start living again? Another day, week, or month?

Set a length of time if you must, and then when it’s over, move on. It may seem odd, but sometimes people are so attached to their guilt or regret that they need some final moments to process it before allowing themselves to move forward in a new life that’s free of guilt and regret.

Guilt and regret are a part of life. So next time you find yourself drowning in either of these emotions, remember that you can’t change the past; we make mistakes. Learn, grow, grieve when appropriate, make restitution, forgive yourself and others, give yourself a clean slate, and start living again.

If you need to, set a timeline for all this to happen. But realize this: opening your eyes this morning was life’s way of reminding you that you’ve been through the worst day(s), but you are still here! The very fact that you woke up this morning is life’s invitation to you to start unlocking your best life. And what better time to embark upon that exciting journey than right now?

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

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