Regrets - I've had a few

“I wish I would have …..”

“I ought to have….”

“I should have ….”

“I could have ….and didn’t!”


If you ruminate using any of the above phrases, you are living in the past, but the past is over,

you are wasting energy, you are negatively impacting your health…

and you are not enjoying life NOW.


Many of my counselling clients over the years have presented with feelings of depression,

a life unsatisfied, and generally just heavy and down.


Whilst they all have had their own unique story, there have been some common themes and one of those is the heaviness that comes from a life less lived, a life of regrets, and feeling it is too late to play catch up.


Some reconcile this and say, “Ok, I could have done life differently.” And stay stuck. But others get stuck in, “Why didn’t I? What stopped me?”

So before it’s too late, check in and see to what extent you are living with regrets, regrets over things you did or didn’t do, missed opportunities, opportunities you wished you’d said “yes” to and didn’t.


And ask the biggy question, “If this were the last day of my life, what would my top regret be?”


Stepping out of regretful living


Take your top regret, and then ask yourself – what can I do about that? It may be genuinely to


  1. Accept you didn’t do it and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it (physical stamina and mobility, finances, geography may just prevent it)

  2. Reframe the regret and find different ways to achieve what you didn’t

  3. Just let go of ruminating on regret and focus what you have got and what you can now do

  4. Consider what the regret has prevented you from achieving and find other ways to achieve it.

  5. Play the “I wonder” game – “I wonder what would happen instead if …..”

  6. Accept you denied yourself a crazy adventure or a life pleasure or a moment when you could have stood up for yourself, challenged that doctor, that accountant or whoever …but if adventure and pleasure is what it was about, is there another route you could take?


Definition of regret


Regret is a negative thinking/emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss, sorrow or even anger at what might have been, could have been, should have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice or action that we made.  Although painful to experience, regret can be helpful for if we step into its pain it can help us refocus and take remedial action or boldly set out on a new path entirely.


However, that may not always be possible and the less opportunity one has to change the situation, (eg I may wish I had always run a marathon and now in the twilight years I may not have the physical stamina or mobility – but that may not stop me being present to help at the marathon and enjoy the atmosphere) the more likely it is that regret becomes rumination, resulting in chronic stress leading to open or more of the many illnesses that stem from too much of the hormone cortisol that comes from stress and that damages mind and body in myriad ways.


Regret and your health


Many diseases have their causation in anxiety, fear and anger. No wonder, “stress” is a common cause of illness, not the stressor itself, but the way we choose to respond to it.


Stress related symptoms (not illnesses) include a feeling that something undesirable is about to happen, a dry mouth, swallowing difficulty, hoarseness, rapid breathing and heart palpitations, twitching or trembling, muscle tension, headaches, backaches, sweating, difficulty in concentrating, dizziness or faintness. Nausea, diarrhoea, weight loss, sleeplessness, irritability, fatigue, nightmares, memory problems and sexual impotence, can all be brought on by stress.


The single most important point you can make about stress is that in most cases it's not th external world and the stressing event that's the problem, it's how you react to it. How you react is determined by how you perceive a particular stress.


Runminating over regrets can cause stress.


Regret or authenticity? Which will win out?


The truth is you don’t have to be suffering or killing yourself through a life lived in Regretsville. It’s not about what you do, but the quality of what you do, what it means, what you get from it, and sometimes what you give. It’s about checking in and asking, “Am I living in authenticity or just wearing a mask?” “Do I just make excuses for not doing or being?”  “Am I living the life others expect of me rather than what I want?”


You’re alive – but are you living?


Very often our regret is not so much about the event or the experience but the fact that we didn’t take the courage to even attempt. Well you can do that now – albeit maybe in a different way.


My examples of past regrets


So here are some of my regrets from the past. Most I have conquered. What about yours?


I wish I hadn’t paid so much attention to what others think of me – now I don’t. My reputation is not down to others.


I wish I had let my feelings be known more often. I do so like Joyce Grenfell’s saying, “If  there is a little Peter Pan within, best let him out.”


I wish I hadn’t worried so much. Now I see worry and fear as a waste of energy, I attempt to take remedial, practical action, or simply live in the present moment and trust it is all working out perfectly, in Divine timing.


I wish I had had more fun and let myself be happier. I was raised with a strong work ethic. Now I consciously take more time for fun, for leisure, for joy. Work-life balance isn't a concept. It is a necessity for good health.


I wish I had trusted myself more. Now I do, I listen to my body, I trust my intuition, I listen to my heart, I connect with my Higher Self, my God Self for guidance and I have learned to trust what I hear.


I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, instead of the life others expected of me. Now I do – I am accountable to no one, I am what and who I am. I can listen to others then discern what I do next.


I wish I had had the courage to leave the job and people I disliked sooner.  I have now given up procrastination. I have found my heart (from which French word “coeur” the word courage comes.) I clear myself of negative energies.


I wish I had gone after my dreams and aspirations. Well usually I did, sometimes it just took too long. Now, time and tide wait for no man.


I wish I had forgiven wisely. What I thought was forgiveness was not. It was giving in to others, trying to protect them.  Living  now from the Higher Self it is easier to forgive. And that includes taking personal responsibility and forgiving myself.


I wish I had loved myself sooner. But I was told it was egotistical. No! It’s never too late to love yourself.


I wish I had chosen love over fear. Now I really know what love is, fear cannot co-exist with love.



Whatever you do, don’t berate yourself for things undone, unsaid. Forgive yourself, and move on. Come in to present time. Live not in regret of the past nor fear of the future. Things grow now, moment by moment. Heal the past, plan for the future, live now.


As we go through life we certainly grow and hopefully we learn, but that doesn’t mean we have to regret what we did before we learned how to do things differently. All the things on my regret list in many ways made me who I am today. I’m only glad I learned from them.

What I’m suggesting is that we cease living in the land of could have, might have, should have and live authentically, taking 100% responsibility for our life now, not holding back because of what others might say, or waiting till we lose weight to go out and have fun, or till we have saved up enough money to enjoy ourselves.




Here are some things you can do to live a life with fewer / no regrets:


  1. Live YOUR life – not what others expect of you or through others, pleasing others

  2. Make YOUR life, YOUR health and wellness your top priority first – then you have more to give others - as they say in-flight, first attach your own mask!

  3. When needed, let others be there for you, ask for help - it is a sign of strength

  4. Let others be responsible for their emotions – don’t hold back for fear they may not like you, will disrespect you, may judge you - you cannot control them, only influence them

  5. Remember, mean well, seek to do no harm, and let others take care of themselves; you cannot control their thoughts, feelings, or behaviours

  6. Remember, above the clouds, the sun always shines - look for the silver linings, the fun, the laughter – or go out and make them

  7. Be willing to be flexible and change if needs be, try out new things, stay updated, be bold

  8. Lean into your fears, your emotions, your life – not out; face, embrace, and if needs be, replace

  9. Be curious as a little child, play as a little child, be as a little child

  10. Get creative – it keeps you young and agile of mind

  11. Be your own best guru, friend, lover, thinker, influencer, shape shifter

  12. Realise we all make judgements of others – just remember you don’t always have to act on them; be compassionate, be empathic, cut a little slack, love people for who they are, not for who or what you’d prefer them to be

  13. Be grateful for what you do have – and stop regretting what you don’t

  14. Go around blessing – anything and everything, silently in your mind wish people well

  15. Share your joy, your happiness, your gifts, your talents – the more you give out the more you get back

  16. Life is about the journey – not the box at the end of it

  17. Happiness comes from life and living, loving and connecting and not from the size of your car, your bank account, or your house, or your ego

  18. Give up complaining, whining, worrying – and turn to gratitude, praising, and trusting instead

  19. Be bold. Remember the serenity prayer by Reinhardt Niebuhr -    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

  20. Always aim to make your passion your work and your work your passion

  21. Accept that life is full of uncertainty and is a mystery – play the “I wonder game” – “I wonder what this could mean, I wonder what else this could be about, I wonder what might happen if … “

  22. Trust your intuitive and creative faculties as much as your logic

  23. Heed the signs you get from God, the universe, from Life, your body - listen with your ears, eyes, nose, hands, heart and intuition

  24. See things from a holistic perspective – not just from a narrow “it’s all about me” perspective

  25. Know when to back off - don’t waste time trying to bring disagreeable people round to liking you

  26. Be your own lover, the person you would like to spend the rest of your life with

  27. Be honest, live in the truth, not just your truth – but the truth

  28. Be honest with others, keep your promises, say what you mean and mean what you say

  29. Treat people with respect and compassion, treat them how they would prefer, not as you would dictate

  30. Be decisive – avoid procrastination

  31. Let go of thoughts of grudge, revenge, hate, dislike and rise above what others do that is negative

  32. Feel the fear and do it anyway

  33. Spend time with people whose energy is positive – happy people, joyous people, inspirational people; who you hang out with rubs off on you as much as you rub off on them, so give them something good to rub up against!

  34. Face, embrace, and live life – rather than complaining about or avoiding it

  35. Face your fears head on and try to do the things that you think you cannot do

  36. Be bold and stand your ground – you are not a doormat

  37. Do what you love and love what you do – if you don’t, why do it?

  38. Cut out all that is no longer serving you – people, events, habits, attitudes

  39. When the going gets tough, realise it is there to learn from – but avoid pushing boulders up hills or water upstream

  40. Never stand still – the rolling stone gathers no moss!


Act now


Take some time and a piece of paper – or notepad


List your own regrets


For each regret – write alongside it what you plan to do instead of regretting


Now do it!