The Painful Emotion Happy People
Use In Order To Grow And Succeed

girl photograph

​​Regrets aren’t generally the sort of thing that we think of as good per se.

Regrets are a part of life.

Regrets are a part of life —but they are not the whole of life.

In fact, our regrets can be turned into a positive if we are dedicated to doing the work to heal and learn from them.

Certainly, we all have our share of regrets but it would be a huge mistake to let regrets stop us from growing, experiencing joy, and living a life that is truly vital.

Before your regrets steal today’s happiness and leave you stranded, heed the wisdom of the poet — a life built on regrets is a life built next to nothing.

The nature of our regrets

The fact that regrets can only be seen when we look back at the past reveals their precarious nature. When looking back on regrets it is impossible to see what is ahead of us. Blinded to the future, we are likely to stumble over opportunities right in front of us.

Even worse yet, looking back can leave us frozen in the past thus unaware that life is racing by us. 

To be sure, there are words we have said and deeds we have done that no amount of regret can undo. However, when we are emotionally and mentally undone by our regrets it becomes difficult to find the wherewithal to carve a new path into the future.

This is not to say looking back on regrets does not have any value — but it speaks to the need for a strong constitution capable of digesting the tough morsels of regret life inevitably shoves down our throats. 


All regrets are unique

Life-fulfilling interactions are all the same. They always put a smile on our faces and fill our hearts with contentment when we look back upon them. Regrets, on the other hand, are all unique in the way that they pain us and drain us of our vitality.

There is the loneliness of regrets; those hurtful words and deeds that make us feel like an outcast. There are the weeping and sighs of regrets for love lost and lost loved ones; the anguish of regrets for which we curse ourselves over missed opportunities; the envy and dissatisfaction. 

Regardless of how regrets manifest, they all require resiliency if we are not to be undone by emotional strain that builds when regrets are pitted against our actualized selves. Moreover, there is a life-enhancing power locked away in all regrets.

If we are to tap the power of those regrets, then we’ll need to be emotionally hardy!

Emotionally and cognitively digesting regrets

Developing the ability to digest regrets in a healthy way begins with positive emotional coping skills. We need to take the edge off of our anxiety, depression, guilt, and disappointment of self-regrets, as well as cognitive coping skills to mentally reconfigure regrets in a way that maintain our self-integrity.

The gamut of regrets will require a combination of coping skills. Ultimately, like all good digestion, the successful utilization of our coping skills breaks down regrets, extracts lessons to be learned, nourishes new perspectives, and unleashes their enhancement potentiating power.

Being well-nourished, we no longer look back but look into ourselves, as if looking through a periscope and seeing above our self-regrets a panoramic view of potential for a better future.

The sorrows of past regrets are eclipsed by our hope, pride, and faith in the future upon which we fix our gaze and commit ourselves to the hardest and most rewarding work; the work of building a life worth living.

Lessons from the hard school of life

Your life are the whole that is greater than the sum of your regrets. How does that happen? On 


the day that we were each born, we were enrolled in the hard school of life.

It is a hard school because life does not teach us how to avoid regrets but rather demands we learn how to restore unity, nobility, and strength to our lives after suffering regrets. Even when grappling with the discords of hurtful words or deeds we regret having said or done, life demands we return to our noble nature and learn the life-enhancing value of altruistic deeds.

Something as simple as a random act of kindness, extending a helping hand, or showing more compassion for others belies the power these acts possess. Altruistic deeds redeem us of our regrets, restore our self-integrity, and return the nobility of uprightness to our posture.

Our altruistic nature not only compels us to do something greater than the hurtful words we have spoken or acts we performed but as our altruistic deeds add up, they fortify our resiliency to regrets we may experience in the future.


Focus on moving forward

To save ourselves from being condemned to the weariness and dissatisfaction of looking back on the “I should’ve”, “if only I could’ve”, or “…would’ve” regrets of the past, the hard school of life mercifully demands we learn how to find our inner strength to keep striving.

Indeed, our salvation from past regrets comes from our striving in the present moment to build a better future. Striving forward demands that we rediscover the power of our will, and thereby saves us from feeling powerless to undo past regrets.

Through our striving, we may delightfully discover strengths, abilities, and talents that we never knew we had or perhaps thought we lost to youth. At any age, it is an act of heroism to summon the strength to boldly strive and conquer past regrets by building new caring relationships, or opening doors long thought closed.

Remember to be grateful

Learning to express gratitude for all that life has given us is perhaps the most important demand the hard school of life puts upon us. Gratitude is the remedy of regrets, especially those that stem from unrequited love, love ones lost, and other fateful events.

The loneliness of mourning losses is indeed normal and necessary but it teaches us nothing about overcoming the regret caused by our losses. Consequently, when fate bestows its tragic and cruel regrets upon us, life demands we find the life-affirming power of gratitude to go on.

The power of gratitude crowds regrets out of consciousness and restores our sense of being whole, alive, and happy again. Gratitude gives us the strength we need to turn our thoughts and feelings away from the poverty of past regrets as we take inventory of the wealth we possess right here, right now; the wealth of health, family, friends, pets, plants, our planet, and everything else life has given us.


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Dr. Stephen Almada 

Health Psychologist

[email protected]