Here's an interesting article from the many at Zenhabits. This one is by Leo Babatua on Why We Have Regret.
I'm posting the portion of Leo's article that deals with letting go of regret here:
(but really it's so good you should read the whole thing, check the link above)
In examining why we have regret, and why it’s so hard to let go, we can see a couple of root causes that we can address:
- We compare past choices to an ideal.
- We have an ideal identity that conflicts with the idea of the bad choice.
So the practice is to let go of the ideals, and embrace reality.
Here’s the reality of those two root causes:
- The choice we made in the past is done, and we can’t change it. And in fact there’s some good in the choice, if we choose to see it. Being able to make the choice at all is an amazing thing, as is being alive, and learning from our experiences, and being in the presence of other really great people, etc. And we can be satisfied with our choices and see them as “good enough” instead of always hoping for the perfect choices. Some choices will be great, some won’t be perfect, and we can embrace the entire range of choices we make.
- We are not actually always good, and in fact our identity can encompass a whole range: we are sometimes good, sometimes not, and sometimes somewhere in between. We make mistakes, we do good things, we care, we are selfish, we are honest, we sometimes aren’t honest. We are all of it, and so making a bad choice isn’t in conflict with that more flexible (and realistic) self-identity. It’s a part of it.
This is a constant practice, but it helps us not look for perfection, not constantly review past choices, but instead find satisfaction in what we’ve done and focus in what we’re doing now.
Regrets are a part of life, whether we want them or not, whether we’re aware we’re having them or not. But by looking into the cause of regrets, and embracing the wide range of reality, we can learn to be satisfied with our choices, happier with the past and happier in the present moment.
And that is a choice you won’t regret.
Hope this helps, I know it was delicious food for thought for me.