We all have regrets from time to time. It is just part of the human experience. Regret surrounding divorce is a common thought, whether you and your ex had an amicable dissolution or a hotly contested case. I call this “divorce regret.”

But the good news is that there can be an upside to “divorce regret.”  Regret is an emotion that stems from a thought you are having. You see, the divorce itself doesn’t cause any emotion until you have thought about it. The thought is what causes the feelings you have. Regret is a feeling, just like happiness. Relief and enthusiasm are feelings that could also stem from a thought about divorce. 

Did you know that thought are optional? Thoughts and the emotions that stem from them about divorce, or any past situation, can be indulgent and useless or they can be unpleasant but useful in helping us to create the life and future we want. 

Regret can be a valued negative emotion if we understand and look at it differently. When we wish something in our past was different, like maybe that we could have acted differently under a certain circumstance or we wish we could have done something differently and we use that emotion to learn from and change our life,  then we are onto something amazing. 

When we are focused on our past and what could have been, that is best defined as regret. Most of us spend way too much time blaming ourselves and others for something that happened in the past. Something we cannot go back and undo.

Wishing you would have done something differently, believing if something would have been different then you would be different is a waste of time and energy. It does not serve you. But if you realize instead that you could have done something differently and you then gain the insight by learning from that thought, regret can be useful because you can learn from it and make different choices moving forward.

There is an expression that says, “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” We can choose to focus on the past, or we can focus on our future and create the life we want. 

I recommend that you imagine yourself 10 years older than the age you are today. Envision your “future self.” So if you are 40, imagine yourself at 50. What might your “future self” regret if you don’t do it now? Some thoughts might be “I regret not exercising and eating well.”, “I regret not spending more time with my loved ones.”, “I regret not taking that job offer.”, or “I regret not putting myself out there to meet someone new.” Taking action now can prevent future regret.  

If you are in a lot of regret stemming from your divorce or another past situation, I encourage you to look at your life and stop punishing yourself with regret. Instead, I ask you…” how could you think about your past in a way that would serve you to become the best version of your “future self?” Then take action now to prevent future regrets. Do not let your regrets take the place of your dreams. You can look back, learn and change your life moving forward.  

Take risks, do hard things and challenge yourself today so when you look back you can avoid thinking of the “what ifs ” or the “I wish I had.”  The saddest thing is not taking chances and failing, but instead not taking action that could have resulted in the dreams and life you could have had.

 

Doreen Yaffa

Board Certified Marital & Family Attorney, Life Coach

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