In December, we tend to look back on the past year and analyze whether we managed to make the most of it. Despite our good intentions, practical planning, solid habits, and even lots of inner work with a regular yoga practice, reflecting on the past year doesn’t always end up looking like what we had hoped it would look like when we first projected our visions for the New Year back in January.
Feeling regretful about something (or many things) that didn’t go as well you hoped this past year can really put a damper on our state of mind during the holidays. It may even be so bad that it makes us feel doubtful and fearful of the upcoming New Year.
Sometimes, we look back and realize we messed up. Or we got distracted. Or something really unexpected happened that we weren’t prepared for. Or the plan we thought would work didn’t work very much at all.
Regret is one way to deal with those things, but it’s definitely not a very constructive way to deal with them. Instead, try asking yourself the following questions when you notice that sense of regret creep up on you as you reflect back on the past 12 months.
“What Do I Feel?”
Regret can trigger a wide range of negative emotions including disappointment, sadness, shame, guilt, frustration, anger, embarrassment, and more. If you haven’t taken the time to recognize what you feel and actually feel it, doing just that is necessary to move forward.
Meditate on the feeling in silent solitude for a few minutes, name the feeling or feelings if you can, and allow them to be released by accepting the need to feel them. Maintain awareness that the feeling or feelings will pass and that even though it may be painful to feel them, everything will be okay.
“Does Something Need to Be Resolved?”
Feeling the emotions tied to our regret can help bring us some closure, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, other actions may need to be taken in our external environment to ultimately put those feelings of regret to rest and move on.
Maybe you left somebody hanging after a difficult event, or there’s unfinished work you need to do for a personal project, or a mistake at work was ignored after you were too embarrassed to acknowledge it and set it right. Again, these things may be hard to go back to and finish, but it will help set you free from regret in the end.
“What Was the Lesson?”
We tend to look at our flaws and mistakes as shortcomings rather than opportunities to grow. But at the root of every experience of regret is a valuable lesson you can use to expand your awareness in the present and future.
You now know more than when you did before the event that caused your regret. Identify it and go as deep into it as you can.
“What Can I Do Right Now?”
Answering the last three questions will help you accept what happened in the past and bring you back to the present. Now you can use the lessons you identified to influence how you choose to take action in the current moment.
The important part about this question is not to fall back into distraction or old mistakes. If you do, something may still be unresolved or there are still lessons that have to be identified, so make sure you go back to the previous questions if you find you can’t move forward in the present.
“How Can I Continue to Improve and Adapt?”
This last question involves expanding on the answer to the previous question, but while maintaining awareness that no matter how well you might plan for the future, things might still not always go your way. That’s why you need to ask yourself how you might be able to “adapt” to the unexpected.
Banishing regret isn’t about doing everything you can to build more certainty into your life. It’s about acceptance and learning, which will fuel your continuous improvement and adaptability now and in the future.