Making Peace With What Wasn't

What if?

Those two little words make up one of the biggest, most stressful, most debilitating questions in our lives. Some people never get past it, always wondering about what could have been. This can leave you stuck, mired in your past. It can keep you from moving forward or even from finding joy in your present.

We all have what ifs in our past:

A job you chose not to take.

A love you walked away from.

A trip you chose not to go on

We all wonder at some point or another what would have happened or where we would be had we made different choices.

Steps for Finding Peace

Holding on to lost opportunities in your past, clinging to regret, will eventually start to define who you are. It will become your identity and the longing for what wasn’t turns to depression and anger. At the very least, as you constantly compare your present to something in your imagination, what could have been, it will taint your view of your world right now. All the things in your life will be viewed through a cloudy lens and you will cheat yourself out of the fullness of joy that you could be experiencing. Take these steps to finding peace with a past regret.

Grieve. Take some time to allow yourself to fully experience the grieving process. Work through the emotions and face them head on. Accept what you can’t change. You can’t go back in time; you can’t even change what happened yesterday. Learn to accept this.

Own the loss. Take ownership of your past. Don’t let your present be affected by something that happened in the past – whether by your own hand or someone else’s. Get control. You can’t control other people or past experiences, but you can control how you choose to move forward and move past the regret. You choose how to respond and grow.

Change your perspective. Sometimes reframing an event can give it a more positive spin. When possible, look for the good in those things, what you learned. Change your focus from the bad to the good.

Look for the joy in your right now. There is joy within your grasp right now. All you have to do is look for it. Seek out the opportunities that are before you right now.

Make a plan for your present. If you don’t like where you are now, make a plan, set goals, start making changes.

Choose to be happy. Because happiness is a choice and you have the power to make it happen for you. Stay mindful, and choose happiness daily.

Leave the past where it belongs. If you keep pulling past regrets into your present you are edging out opportunities for joy and satisfaction.

And When Regret Tries to Creep In…

The return of regret is sometimes unavoidable. No matter how hard you try to keep regret tamped down, those thoughts of what wasn’t may sneak in and try to haunt you, damaging the progress you've made in finding peace with the situation. You may feel powerless against it, but you aren’t. If this happens just shake your head and remind yourself that the past is in the past, and that you choose joy. If necessary, say it out loud.

Say it loud. Say it with conviction. And believe it.