How to stop regretting past decisions and start moving forward

The past should always remain in the past. However, for so many of us, there are certain events and/or decisions that we just can’t seem to let go of. Whether it’s about a friendship, relationship or job, everybody has that one thing that they wish they did differently. Instead of moving forward with life, we get stuck reliving that critical moment, going over every single decision that we made, spiralling further into despair. In this post, we’re going to be talking about how to stop regretting these past decisions and start moving forward.

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Acknowledge what happened 

The first step is always acknowledging the past. It happened. There’s no getting away from it. You can’t rationalize it away. The honest truth is that deep down, most of us know this so how come we can live in denial for so long?

According to the Mayo Clinic, ‘Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations’. In other words, it’s your brain’s way of telling you that it literally cannot handle whatever situation it is experiencing.  

It can actually be helpful in short periods, giving you time to cool off before processing an event properly. However, if you stay in denial forever about a past decision, acting like it never happened, then you’ll end up never fully processing the event.

Trust me, I tried to do that for so long, and for a time it worked. I completely forgot about things. However, it only took a similar set of circumstances for everything to come rushing back. The truth is that by denying the experience, you aren’t fully processing the event. And if you don’t do that, then you won’t ever fully get past it.

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Go easy on yourself

Once you’ve worked through denial and acknowledged the past decisions, it’ll be extremely overwhelming. Every fibre of your being will tell you to blame yourself. Your inner critic will run rampant and it will fill your head with negative intrusive thoughts.

I was discussing with a friend the other day and they made a statement that changed my perspective on this. They said ‘You were doing the best you could with the information you had’, and that opened my eyes.

When you’re regretting past decisions, you’re looking back at it with pure hindsight. You blame yourself for not acting in the most rational way, but realistically you would never have had the capacity to act that way in the first place.  Once you understand this, you’ll be able to start having empathy for your past self as they were simply working with what knowledge had at the time. 

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Take accountability and make amends  

Despite the fact that I promote going easy on yourself, I also want to emphasize the importance of accountability. One way to stop regretting past decisions is to own up to what you did and to make amends to the people that you may have hurt. 

This is probably a major reason why a lot of people are stuck in the past. Because moving forward means having to confront people who might hate you (rightfully or not), and that’s extremely unpleasant. You’ll have to look them right in the eye and apologize from the bottom of your heart. It’s not going to be easy but if you can gather up all your courage, it’s a massive step in moving forward.

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Make new goals for the future 

Once you’ve acknowledged the past decisions, shown yourself some self-love, and taken accountability for your actions, it’s time to start looking to the future. Reflecting on the past is a very important step in the process but overdoing it will only keep you stuck there. At some point, you have to be willing to consciously let go of the past decision and move on with your life.

To help with this, I recommend journaling. There are tons of journal prompts out there that help you with making plans for your future self. Where do you see yourself in 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? What does a perfect day look like for you?

Answering questions like this places you in a goal-oriented mindset for the future, allowing you to stop regretting past decisions.

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Give it time 

As much as I’d like to say that each step is simple and straightforward, it most definitely isn’t. As someone who spent months in denial whilst regretting the past, I can tell you that these things take time. 

You won’t work through this immediately and there will be setbacks in between each stage. However, with consistent effort over a long period of time, you can most definitely stop regretting whatever past decisions haunt you. 

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What do you think? Are there any decisions from your past that you can’t let go of? Let me know what they are in the comments below!

How to stop regretting past decisions and start moving forward

7 Replies to “How to stop regretting past decisions and start moving forward”

  1. I really appreciate your point about journalling. It feels like you’re emphasizing the positive, what the future could be like, and then moving back into the past from there. And I believe that’s a great way to deal with things, instead of letting regret define us.

  2. I enjoyed reading this! To be honest, I have the tendency to do this, where I would always think about the “what if’s” and it would just put me in a moody state. But, honestly, I’ve learned that the past does really teach us a lesson on what to be aware of and how we can grow as an individual. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this topic. 😊

  3. Thank you for such clear and sweet message. Simple and to the point, no stupid philosophies and no baseless motivational tricks, just nice and fine…. This a really good way to deliver the message…. Sugar, Spice and everything Nice!

    Keep doing the same thing.
    P.S: this is first time in years I’ve posted a comment on some website!

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