Have you ever told others "I have no regrets. I would do everything the same if I had it to do all over again?" If so, you answer the question the …
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Have you ever told others "I have no regrets. I would do everything the same if I had it to do all over again?" If so, you answer the question the way lot's of people do. But you're not being honest.
Nobody gets through life without words better left unsaid, without sometimes choosing a dead-end path rather than a constructive one, without having seriously faulty judgment, without occasionally making terrible choices, without sometimes being insensitive or heartless, and without regretting their choice of romantic partners, career path, education, parenting, to name a few.
Indeed, regretting something we said or did — or didn't say and didn't do — is one of the ways we motivate ourselves to not make the same mistakes again, and to hold ourselves accountable for our words, our behaviors, our judgments and our wrongdoing.
Here are some of the topics that people have the most regrets about, along with suggestions on how you might keep future regrets to a minimun:
Love and Relationships: Take an active interest in the other person. Learn to communicate effectively, with an absence of anger, reactivity or defensiveness. Learn and practice good listening skills, not needing to be "right" (that makes the other person "wrong"), having compassion and empathy, offering genuine friendship and picking your battles wisely.
Accomplishment: Challenge yourself to do what's hard, not easy. Accomplishing something that is hard to do gives us a strong sense of satisfaction and a greater feeling of self-esteem.
Work or career: Regardless of what you do for a living, find some aspect of it that you take pride in and is personally fulfilling. If you spend your days making bread, step back and admire the smell, the taste and how well the loaves turn out.
Self-transcendence: Having a big-picture, longer range perspective that is not dependent on present emotions. When you do this one thing, you will lessen the time you spend living in high drama, reactivity, anxiety, fear and anger.
Parenting: Spend more time with your kids, and share in their activities and in their interests. Your kids (regardless of their age) are greatly influenced by your warmth toward them, your friendliness, your encouragement, your approval, your respect and your love.
Aging: Always be open to learning and growing, no matter how old you are. If you stop doing this, you will feel older. Also, avoid isolating yourself by maintaining and fostering social and familial connections. Look for ways to stay active and engaged.
One other thing you can do: Every night, as you lay your head down on your pillow, ask yourself what happened today that you are grateful for or proud of. It's a way to keep your mind on the positive things, because focusing on the negative is a bad habit that does not bring you peace of mind or contentment.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is conducting a one-day workshop, "To Love and To Be Loved," on Saturday, March 2, in Westminster. For information and registration, call 303-525-8387, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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