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 do. 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?

Photo by Ss photography

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • tampopot

    aww… this is so nice..=)

  • Pingback: Ways to Let Go of Regrets « Interestingness Notepad()

  • 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.

  • Pingback: TwittLink - Your headlines on Twitter()

  • 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.

  • Pingback: How to Want Less and Be Happy About It |

  • Pingback: Enlightenment ~ Regret | The Trader's News()

  • Pingback: 8 Ways to Be More Confident: Live the Life of Your Dreams |

  • Pingback: 8/19/10 Tiny Wisdom: On Letting Go |

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Pingback: 10 Ways to Create a Strong, Intimate Relationship | Tiny Buddha: Wisdom Quotes, Letting Go, Letting Happiness In()

  • Pingback: 10 Ways to Create a Strong, Intimate Relationship | Tiny Buddha … – relationships()

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • You’re most welcome, and thanks. 🙂

  • Alexis

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

  • joon

    I guess most of the day to day basis regrets happen due to anger, ego, hatred or sorrow. Few days before I had such an experience, under my utterly non-sense ego which leads to hatred later to anger. Now after I have done something to THAT person, this has turned into sorrow which is haunting me sometimes. For me its like “why did I do that”/ “what was the need to act like that”/ “why i could not control my anger”. I hope with time, it will be feasible for me to see and take easily this silly act of mine. Hoping for that day will come. Above lines I guess will give some lights to my brain. Lets see.

  • Lee

    I so agree. This is for much younger people who have their lives ahead of them and their regrets are just one of many, but not catastrophic. I have a few that literally ruined my life – not drugs, or anything like that, just simply making decisions without guidance and enough information. Now it is too late. It did change my life entirely. I understand too well. I have both lost a home and a family. Little mistakes that you regret are one thing, true regrets are those that are life-changing. This is a “too happy” post for those who don’t have true difficulties. More New Age talk that doesn’t solve a thing. And I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason (that will make you better or stronger). Sorry, but some lives of regret truly are regrettable.

  • Jackson

    I just recently commented a kind of mean comment on someone Instagram photo and I feel so bad now. The instant I realized what I did I started getting that panicky feeling like when im about to go on a roller coaster and that feeling has been with me for the entire day. But this article helped me a lot, so thank you.

  • Daisy Thomson

    my boyfriend lost a precious silk scarf i asked him to look after. my brother brought it back from burma for me. i have been crying for two days. it seems ridiculous and such a small thing but it is still a loss and i am annoyed with myself for not looking after it.

  • Rich

    I have felt regret everyday for the past 2 and a bit years. And I’m starting to really struggle to get on with my life. Any other tips? because I cannot go on feeling how I do.

  • Daija

    I followed my boyfriend to college and he ended up breaking up to me then lying about the reason he broke up with me and said he just needed time. Then decided to get back together and I found out he was cheating on me the whole time…so long story short I look like a fool and everyone knows I picked my college because of him and everyone knows what happened and that I’m miserable so now I regret picking this school because it was really dumb idk what I was thinking. How do I go about living with this awful decision?

  • Tior

    You make the college you’re at work for you.

    You may have chosen the place because of the boyfriend – but that doesn’t mean the school has nothing else of worth to you. And the way you get the upper hand here is to find those other worthy things, so that later on you can say, “I’m so glad I ended up there because… [long list of reasons].”

    So… fully explore your college. Take some courses just because they fascinate you (or, if you’re in a major that won’t easily translate to employment: take some courses with obvious practical/job value). Join student clubs. Meet new people. Learn new skills. Find yourself. Take advantage of internships or study abroad or any other cool programs your school offers. And be sure to check in with student support services if you need them – whether that’s counselling, academic skills or career planning help.

    But if after all this, it turns out that being with him really was the only benefit, you can always look into transferring schools.

    (I don’t know if I’m too late for you to see this, but I really feel you because I did something similar: totally changed my choice of university to be closer to a guy who dumped me not long after. Would I have chosen that school otherwise? Hell no. Do I regret that I went there now? Not at all – if anything, I wish I’d taken better advantage of the place!)

  • Yogesh Phogat

    Same with me. I have just been divorced by my wife after 3.5 years of marriage n i daily have thoughts if had done this, i could have stopped her. I consulted a psychiatrist but the medicines caused impotency. Think of suicide many times but its too hard to committ. I get unhappy with God why he had programmed my brain this way. In last 1 year i have cried almost 400 times.

  • Mardiha

    I feel the same way. My regret is so hard for me i think of suicide over it daily. I can not let it go. Or change it. It has changed my life for the worse and in the last ten years my family has made many big regrets all of them add up to feelings of hopelessness and grief and despair. Small regrets i can live with but not huge ones.

  • Yogesh

    Stacy, but how can meditation treat depression, bipolar, Obssessive complulsive disorder which is in my genes ? I tried meditation 10-15 mins a day, i dont think it benefitted me. I m divorced man now. Should i remarry ?

  • Mohan

    I gave my formatted pen drive to a taxi driver. It was an old one and I wanted to throw it, but thought of giving it to him since he said he has a computer.

    The thing is, even if you format a pen drive, anybody can retrieve the information using special free ‘tools’. I knew this when I gave it to him, but now I regret it. You know why??

    Because, I think he might use a ‘tool’ to get all the old data which has some adult movies and my name, photos addresses, e-mails and he might blackmail me or tell my relatives about me.

    This could be crazy to you but I have moderate OCD and OCD is about ‘doubt’. How can I get over this please? Any advice will be very helpful and appreciated.

  • Roxana

    I have a huge regret from my past, that I can’t forget. It’s not something minor either. I ruined a friendship I had with someone because I was too afraid to communicate. And I lost this person, or at least what we could have had between us. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it or replay how it could have been, this person still means very much to me. I did end up getting a second chance with this person but ended up losing him a 2nd time as well. I always wonder what could have happened if I had spoken up the first time? I wish I had appreciated him when he was in my life. Now I know I should be more appreciative of people in my life and to express my feelings, which I do now every day. But unfortunately it came at a huge price.

  • Wolf Truong

    I had a very good friend of mine who confessed her attraction to me, so I tried giving a relationship a go in spite of the fact that I wasn’t really sure. It didn’t feel right and I was never that physically attracted to her, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit it so I kept lying about it to spare her hurt feelings. I initially pulled out, but after seeing how it hurt her I was overcome with guilt and lied again to tell her I wanted to try. But I couldn’t keep up the lying – I eventually fessed up and absolutely crushed her. Now the trust she had in me is completely gone, her self-confidence is wrecked and our friendship is in tatters. I constantly rue not being honest when I should have been, and rushing into something I wasn’t sure about. I lied to someone who trusted me, and I can’t forgive myself for this. It has kept me up at night.