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Tips for KNOW Regrets
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, March 2013

Some of us want to go through life with no regrets and others of us go through life with the desire to learn from our actions that caused us to have regrets in the first place. Instead of No Regrets, I advocate Know Regrets.

When something happens in our lives we can choose how to respond. Once we have the experience, we can do ourselves a favor and examine, process, integrate, and learn from that experience.

Here are some tips to consider:

Revisit Choices Made and Consider the Consequences. - When we do this, we can KNOW more about our regret and hope to alter our behavior when faced with similar choices in the future. If there is nothing we can do, then we need to come to terms and let it go. Ruminating, living in the past, repeatedly beating ourselves up over something we cannot change, can lead to depression and affect our ability to look at other situations clearly and wisely. Many people who live with regret find it impossible to forgive themselves and need to keep the regret scenario playing in their mind as a way to punish themselves.

Review with Perspective. - If your child or good friend had done what you did, what would it take for you to forgive them so they could begin to rebuild their sense of themselves and their life? Sometimes we need to be as kind and forgiving of ourselves in order to let go of the punishing aspects of regret and move on. Often, when we regret something, we look at the situation with the wisdom we have now. At the time we made the choice, we not only did not have the wisdom of today, we did not have the perspective and for any number of reasons, we chose badly.

Practicing these tips is not to absolve, but to allow room for self reflection, self examination, and forgiveness. When a person does this, they assume responsibility, but they remove the "self-imposed hair shirt." When we take responsibility, we are then able to apologize if other people have been affected by our actions. We allow ourselves to learn from the situation. We examine the way we responded and investigate alternative ways of responding that we may not have considered before. We learn about what are the predictable triggers that allow us to behave in ways that cause regret. We can find out about what is truly important to us, what are our values, and how we can live a life that is true to those values without behaving in ways that will cause us pain.

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