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20 Ways to Let Go of Regrets

“Every new day is another chance to change your life.” ~Unknown

You know the moment. It happens right after you realize you did something you wish you didn’t. Maybe you broke someone’s trust and now the guilt is overwhelming you. Maybe you compromised your job in some way and now you’re terrified your world will come crashing down.

Regardless of what you did, you can feel your anxiety like a stack of red hot bowling balls surgically implanted in your stomach. (Dramatic? Yes. Regret is rarely reasonable.)

It’s that dreaded “Good God! Oh no! What was I thinking? Why me?” moment when you think one of two things:

  • I did something I shouldn’t have and I might not be able to fix it.
  • I did something I shouldn’t have so I’m going to lose something important.

Both of those things might be true. In fact, they often are. Actions do have consequences. We do lose things—all through life. Nothing is permanent, not even the most secure relationship. But none of this has to be catastrophic.

Sometimes losing one thing opens you up to something else. It might be a lesson that helps you be more effective and happier in the future, or it could be a new possibility you never even thought to seek (like that dream you put off to work the job you just lost).

Or maybe it won’t benefit you in any discernible way right away. Let’s call a spade a spade—maybe you’ll wish you went a different way, grieve what you lost, and then eventually let it go and move on.

The point is you will eventually let go and move on.

And because you’re a strong, smart, capable person, you’ll find ways to make this new direction meaningful for you. To make up for what you lost by gaining something equally important in the aftermath, whether it’s a new understanding of your strengths, a new idea of who you want to be, or a new opportunity to try again a little wiser.

It’s hard to think that way when you feel your dream job slipping through your fingers, or you miss someone who made your life wider than it could possibly be long. What’s important to remember is that  no matter what changes or slips away, you can still do something meaningful and fulfilling right from where you are.

That’s how I let go of regrets when they start overwhelming my sense of optimism and possibility. Need more ideas to let your regret fade away?

Here’s how Tiny Buddha’s Facebook friends answered the question, “How do you let go of regrets?”

1. The first is to not allow regrets. Make each decision with the fullness of heart and mind. Mistakes are lessons learned; they’re not meant to be regrets. (Amber Strange Banchev)

2. It takes time but I try to think of all of the positives that came out of that situation. (Ryan Cayabyab)

3. I trust that each experience is a lesson in the journey that I have chosen and embarked upon. I believe that we embrace the light and the dark and trust that we are exactly where we should be on our journey in this life! (Debra Mericantante Anzalone)

4. I don’t attach myself to my emotions. I recognize the emotion and then let it go. (Alexandria DaCosta)

5. Time and patience. (Ben DeLong)

6. Breathe, reflect, learn from it, forgive myself, and move on. (Megan Corey)

7. I do it differently the next time, then there is nothing to regret. (Angie Thibault)

8. Regret is a waste of time. There is only the eternal now. (Neme Sis)

9. Find something better to replace it. (Vanessa Sah)

10. Having some regrets is not a bad thing—they make you strive for better. If we didn’t have them we wouldn’t grow spiritually, either. It is your preconceptions of regrets that determine how they affect you, positively or negatively. (Virginia Kiper)

11. Sometimes life gives you circumstances that simply have to be grieved, with no way around that. (Jacquie Pratt)

12. I simply never hold onto them in the first place… (Martine Eros)

13. Feel it, review it, learn it, shed it. (Susan Miley)

14. Regrets are visitors in the guest house of the mind. They come and they go like all feelings. (Rebecca Tighe)

15. Every time a regret crosses my mind, I put my mind to something positive in my life. (Theja Weeratne)

16. I believe that any bad decision can be rectified, depending on how much work you are willing to put into it. (David Durtschi)

17. Every feeling has a purpose related to survival. You can’t hope to “change” this fact because it’s part of life. You can instead learn to deal with feelings of regret by reflecting on them and learn from mistakes then letting go. Regret is useful. (Virginia Kiper)

18. We may regret the time spent regretting unless we have learned from these regrets and make a more centered and peaceful now, where we create fewer regrets and more love. (Susan Carol Luddeke)

19. I try not to think “what if.” (Karyn Dillard)

20. Just live by all your heart, not by your head. (Yen Mai)

What helps you let go of regrets?

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About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook seriesTiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • tampopot

    aww… this is so nice..=)

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  • Lisa S.

    Usually I would just shrug it off. Of course I would sort of complain and grieve a little about it for a while, but then I realize, “Eh, whatev. There's something else to think or worry about right now.”
    So to me, whatever happened just happens.

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  • Karen Murphy

    Regrets are an invitation. Not to be wallowed in, but to be explored. What are the underlying feelings? What are the patterns that lead to the sense of regret? And then, the letting go … asking if it will make any difference in ten years, in 20. Often, regrets are a mask that allow us to tell the same stories over and over, rather than creating new ones.

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  • Heather S.

    Actually, I have a hard time letting go of regrets, though they don’t usually last too long. Sometimes, right before I’m falling asleep, a memory of something I felt regretful for, like something I said to someone or an action I didn’t think about doing then that I could have done if I gave it second thought or if I had more courage, will pop up uncontrollably and I dwell on the memory for awhile before I can fall asleep.

  • Heather S.

    Actually, I have a hard time letting go of regrets, though they don’t usually last too long. Sometimes, right before I’m falling asleep, a memory of something I felt regretful for, like something I said to someone or an action I didn’t think about doing then that I could have done if I gave it second thought or if I had more courage, will pop up uncontrollably and I dwell on the memory for awhile before I can fall asleep.

  • Lori Deschene

    I think to some extent this in inevitable. Things will pop into our heads from time to time, but we do have a say in how long we dwell on them. I have the same thing happen when I lay down to go to sleep sometimes. I try to focus on my breathing and relax myself into a less stressful thought. Sometimes it’s easier than others, but it seems to get easier with practice!

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  • Jade Murphy

    I worry about everything. When I was eight I did something that I now regret doing so badly. I have hypochondria. I think as well as understanding your regret, the other important thing is forgetting about it. It’s always in my mind. I have been scared about something for four months now. I really regret thinking about it, and I regret regretting it. I need help. Anymore tips? Please.

  • Lori Deschene

    Hi Jade. Do you practice meditation? It sounds like the main issue is learning to tame your mind a little, and you might find this really helpful in creating a sense of clarity!

  • stephanirose

    thank you, reading this actually made me feel better.  

  • Nadia

    I’m always regretting little things I do, especially if it was supposed to be for people I love, and my thoughts brought me here tonight when I googled “how to let go of petty regrets.” Thanks for writing this article.

  • memory

    i think letting go of what you did is the best thing ever, rather regret the things you never said to make the situation bette

  • anna

    A couple of days ago I sent a prestigious exhibition catalogue for print, then noticed a grave error concerning a title. I have felt terrible since, as I can’t share it to get it off my chest, because if noone notices I will have worried them unneccessarily. It is excruciating having to wait till September to find out if someone will point it out, but reading this actually made me feel better.

  • Anonymous

    When I had a boxing competition I didn’t fight how I should have I have bet the girl before and new I could again but when I got into the ring I didn’t do the best of my ability Thats how i lost i regret this so much but I still have to move on

  • Stacy

    I’m not sure how I ended up on this but everything happens for a reason, so here is what I have to say. Regret nothing. Like I said, everything happens for a reason. They’re life lessons. Plus, the past is gone, the future doesn’t exist yet, all we have is today. We can’t worry or regret over things we can’t change. They’re done, gone. I like what Lori said about meditation. I meditate every day. It’s not easy at first so don’t give up. I had the same issues as everyone else. It gives you clarity that you can’t even imagine. I’m miserable if I miss a meditation. I highly recommend.

  • Deanna M.

    I just made a little mistake at my new job today. I feel horrible about it and worry that the consequence will be a bad reputation and a disappointed coworker.
    My mentor had asked if I wanted to help unload the trick. I told him that I wanted to see what that was like, and followed. He gave me very brief instructions and then told me to follow him again. I turned around for a minute, then turned back to talk to him again, but he was gone. I panicked a little and didn’t know what to do, so I ended up asking someone to tell my mentor that I went back to zoning my aisle. It wasn’t until I got off of work not too much later that I felt awful. I tried to find my mentor to apologize for running off, but couldn’t find him, and ended up just going home.
    I keep playing it over and over, and I can’t seem to let it go. I know that it was good that I had someone tell him where I went, but I worry that I’ve lost his trust or that I now seem flaky and unreliable.

  • Kate Britt

    Deanna, review Lori’s article and especially her points above. Take them to heart. Lori is so very wise!
    The role of your mentor is to *help* trainees learn the job. You made “a little mistake” but now your regrets are blowing it up into something bigger than it probably was. I’d say that the key is working with your mentor in a true mentor/trainee relationship. That is, look to him for advice and help with this. Fully accept that your mentor is there to help, give him your trust, thank him for what he’s doing for you, then tell him that you’re worried about something you did and that you need to clear it up in order to move forward. Then tell him about it, including how bad you feel about the incident. My guess is that it wasn’t a big deal for him and he’ll be very understanding — companies usually don’t give a mentor role to people who are easy to judge beginners’ mistakes.
    Best of luck in your new job!

  • Lori Deschene

    Thank you, Kate! And you are very wise, as well–this is wonderful advice for Deanna. =)

  • Andrej Škarja

    In my case it is a vicious circle. Regretting one lost opportunity and
    while crying and thinking “what if” I was blind to see another one. And
    for years lost with wrong or better said indecisions I always thought
    it’s too late but then after half a year or one year later I found out it was
    not really too late. But now it is even more too late. So the time
    did not ask, the youth did not ask.. I never learnt anything..

  • AnonymousScarredSoldier

    I can’t let go of most things I regret. The bigger the harder. But even the tiniest is impossible.

  • Zoxy

    Sometimes regrets are really big — like losing your home or family….little ones don’t even seem like “regrets” they just seem like simple “mistakes.” Big regrets are debilitating. The article mostly focuses on general run-of-the-mill mistakes/regrets. Step into the shoes of those of us who have really big regrets and there is no turning it around ever… I think this article is for people who have easier lives and are still young. Sometimes just one bad or ill-informed decision can lead to a lifetime of regret that changes your life entirely. I’d like to see something on that instead of just general every-day life things that happen to us all. Thanks.

  • Austin Bath

    Thank you. You should be proud that this little article is still bringing hope to people’s lives.

  • Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome, and thanks. :)

  • Alexis

    This was just what I needed. Now I can finally not live with such regret. Thank you