“Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.”
~Katherine Mansfield

“I shouldn’t have done that,” my client said to me. “I should have known that it would work out that way.”

Years ago someone I respected reminded me that I couldn’t know something before I knew it. I had said to her practically the same thing my client said to me – “I should have known that already,” I said. “You can’t know something before you know it,” she responded. I reminded my client of this same thing. “You couldn’t have known it before you knew it,” I told him. “We never really know how things will work out, and we certainly can’t know something before we know it.”

But yet we get stuck in regret.

“If only I hadn’t done that.” “If only I had handled that differently.” “I wish I’d been better at that.”

All of these are helpful sentiments, if we feel, think, reflect on them, and move on. If we use the situations we handle poorly and the things we wish we’d done differently as opportunities to learn and to improve, then they’re helpful for us. We change. We grow. We get better.

But if we stay in regret – and beat ourselves up for what we did and even, at times, for who we are – then there is no change and there is no growth. And we don’t get better.

I’ve found that regret is only useful for me as a bouncing off spot. As a chance to try something different and to refine – and maybe transform – myself. But, in the end, we all have to catch ourselves when we’re wallowing in regret, and challenge ourselves to find a new way.

How have you bounced off from your regret?
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