Finally Move On From Past Regrets

A question was recently posed to me – what is a failure that you have experienced and what did you learn from it? Well, I really couldn’t come up with anything in my life that I think of as a “failure.” I tried to think and the only thing that came to mind was not a failure per se, but things that I failed to do. 

For this “failure,” I can come up with a LONG list! And, this list of things I “failed to do” in reality is a list of (hate to say it) – regrets. I am regretful that I didn’t do these things. I failed at doing them because…I didn’t. 

So, I thought, if I feel this way, others probably do too, and I want to share with you the one way I believe that we can reframe these thoughts of regret and change the way we think about our list of things we “failed to do.” 

We CAN move on from past regrets!

I never regret anything. Because every little detail of your life is what made you into who you are in the end. ~Drew Barrymore

First, let me just list a few of the things on this list of regrets (putting this “on paper” is hard):

Things I Failed to Do

  • Move away from my home town (I’m only 45 minutes away). Well, I did move away but didn’t stay away. I was in San Diego, but only for about 6 months and then Baltimore, Maryland for a year and a half I think. After that, back where I started…and haven’t left again (yet).
  • Live on my own while I was young. I always had roommates or lived with a boyfriend. I didn’t know what it was like to be independent.
  • Take advantage of the cities when I was there. During those brief times that I lived away from my hometown, I didn’t take advantage of many things they had to offer.
  • Try harder to figure out what I wanted to do – career-wise. I had some ideas but never knew for sure and didn’t pursue those ideas, out of fear I suppose. I made excuses for not doing things that seemed risky or scary.
  • Save more money (start young). We all wish we had saved more and spent less on crap, I think. You know those charts that show you how much to save so that you’ll be a millionaire upon retirement? Yeah, that didn’t happen.
  • Reach out to people and get out of my comfort zone  I’ve always been an introvert and need time to myself to recoup/refresh, but I really enjoy people and their stories. I haven’t spent enough time talking to people or getting to know them.
  • Make myself a priority/put myself first. I certainly didn’t practice self care and I don’t really think I knew what this meant. 
  • Have more confidence in myself. Much of the things that I didn’t do were directly related to me not having the confidence to step out or put myself out there.
  • Stay in touch with people/friends. As I mentioned, I am definitely an introvert and that is ok, except for the fact that I will tend to isolate myself, because that is most comfortable for me. Of course, it also leads to loneliness.
  • Spend more time with my children. Have I spent enough time with them? I don’t know. I always tell myself we will have more family meals and conversations, but it never becomes so much a priority that I work out our schedules to ensure it happens.

Like I said, seeing this list in writing is kind of hard (see my post on vulnerability). Do any of the above resonate with you? I think I could go on and on, but that’s not the point of this post!

move on from regret

What I’ve learned from these “failures”

It has taken me a while, but what I have learned is that there is ONE thing that helps me to be at peace with my past and the decisions I have made over the years – and that is ACCEPTANCE

I can actually write down the list above and still feel ok (not start crying, not feel anxiety, not spiral into depression) because ACCEPTANCE allowed me to really move on from past regrets.

What Acceptance Doesn’t Mean

You may think that acceptance is just being apathetic, like “oh well, whatever.”  I definitely don’t feel apathetic about the things I mentioned above or I wouldn’t have added them to my list of “failures.”

Acceptance is not an excuse for making bad choices. I have made several bad choices and I take full accountability for them.

Acceptance does not enable unhealthy behaviors. From eating fast food to smoking to letting feelings build up to the point of “blowing up,” I’ve definitely chosen behaviors that were unhealthy (physically and emotionally).

What Acceptance Does Mean

Acceptance helps us come to terms with pain, fears, or physical/mental health issues that may cause or contribute to our actions or inaction. Many of the “failures” in the above list can be attributed to the social anxiety that I’ve lived with for most of my life.

Acceptance allows us to live free from self judgment. In my case, I felt badly about myself and judged myself harshly for not staying in touch with friends, networking, taking risks, etc. 

Beating myself up for these things never helped me; it didn’t motivate me to do anything differently. It only made me feel worse.

On the other hand, acceptance has allowed me to understand myself and be ok with who I am. I accept that I have lived with social anxiety, in addition to depression, and have come to understand that I am not flawed, nor should I feel ashamed of these things.  

Acceptance of who I am and the way that I do things has allowed me to grow and change. On the contrary, self criticism only served to keep me stagnant. Acceptance has made me aware that I am not crazy or strange or abnormal. I have “found” others who are like me and to whom I can relate. I am more able to listen to myself (intuition) rather than second guessing every decision that I make. I feel comfortable doing what feels right to me.

What Acceptance Can Do For You (you guessed it – help you move on from past regrets)

If you have a list of things you have “failed to do,” consider practicing acceptance. Acceptance can help you finally move on from your past regrets. 

Acceptance will allow you to stop behaviors that don’t serve you like judging yourself, fighting against your natural instincts, comparing yourself to others, and criticizing yourself for what you’re not doing or haven’t done.

Acceptance will help you celebrate what you ARE doing! I’m pretty sure that’s a hell of a lot! As a matter of fact – WRITE DOWN that list! (Go…do it now!)

Really, I’m just SO GLAD you’re here with me and we can do these Midlife Pursuits TOGETHER!

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P.S. I learned about Acceptance during the course Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance – it’s free to take through FutureLearn.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Kellyann Rohr

    As I read your list of things you “failed to do” I realized I could have written that myself! My goodness! I don’t think I have failed at anything except maybe being bold and putting myself out there. I used to really regret never moving from my parents home until I got married; I regretted not allowing myself to do some deep soul searching career wise, etc., etc.. But it’s all part of who we are and our life story.
    I enjoyed this post – glad I found it on our Mid Life Blogging Community FB page!

    1. Lisa

      So glad you found the post and enjoyed/related! Thanks so much for your contributions, Kellyann!

  2. Shelley Webb

    Great read!

    I somewhat regret that I didn’t think outside the box when choosing a career path. Nursing was a good career (and there weren’t many choices when I was in college), but I feel there were at least a couple more options that I could have explored.

    1. Lisa

      Thanks for sharing that, Shelley! I hear that often from women of our age – there didn’t seem to be a lot of choices for career paths – or we weren’t made aware of them. In reality, there were probably a lot more than we knew! : )

  3. Lauren

    Wow, Lisa! Reading this made me feel like you and I could have a great time sitting down to talk over a cup of coffee … so many things in common! I have many similar regrets to the ones you’ve shared in your list. And like you, I’m reaching a place in my life where I realize there’s no value or benefit to spending time mired in those regrets. Acceptance, as well as “feeling all the feelings” (a topic about which I’m currently working on for a future blog post), even the negative ones like regret, actually leads to much greater peace and freedom. So glad you shared this! 🙂

    1. Lisa

      Hi Lauren. (First – sorry for late reply to your comment – I guess I accidentally deleted my first response.) Reading your comment made me happy. It makes me feel so good when I can connect with people via the blog, really that’s the purpose of it, after all! And, I LOVE that you are on this path of peace and freedom as well!

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