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Regret, learn, move on

I am in blood

Stepp’d in so far, that, should I wade no more,

Returning were as tedious as go o’er.

-Macbeth, Act III, scene IV

Much like Macbeth, we are often haunted by the ghosts of the past. We regret an incomplete education, an unresolved disagreement with a loved one we lost, unrequited love, an unfulfilled relationship, untold stories and unrealised dreams. And with these, comes the desperate need for another chance to do what was not done.

When we mull over broken bonds, we ignore the hand that waits to be held. When we look back on untold stories, we miss out on the ones that need to be told now. As Alexander Graham Bell put it: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Many of us let regrets get to us. Dr Jaishree Ravikumar, a consulting psychologist, reveals that a patient of hers attempted suicide because she regretted marrying early, leaving her widowed mother alone. Surely, there are many like her among us.

Regrets attack our self-esteem, inducing a self-blame game. This leads to lack of confidence, which in turn, takes a toll on our wellbeing.


We tend to hold on to the several regrets we’ve developed over the years. Sure, it is better to nip it in the bud. But, there is no age bar on starting afresh. The famous sexagenarian couple–Vijayan and his wife, Mohana–who run a small-time tea shop in Kochi, have made it their life’s dream to travel the world. Had they regretted their age, in their wait for accumulating wealth, they would not have taken any steps to realise their wanderlust. We would be wise to take a leaf out of their book.

So, how do we bring ourselves to overcome regrets when they’re so easy to cling on to? Dr Jaishree offers her advice on how to make regrets our stepping stones:

Re-engage with life

Do not let regrets attack your self-esteem. Every time you feel the pull to go downhill with regrets, re-engage with life. Go for brisk walks/jogs, hand-write your journal, or sketch/paint; these activate the creative side of your brain. You may not feel like engaging in these activities, but it’s necessary that you do. You will not only see positive changes in your mind, but also in your body.

Perform productive activities

If there is a problem around you, find solutions to it. It will make you feel useful and important, keeping your self-esteem intact. Another thing you could do is to set yourself a small target. Once you achieve it, you will see for yourself that not all your decisions can go wrong. Feeling important and engaging in something productive are always great morale boosters.

Demarcate control

Know what is within your control and what is not. You can try to rectify the mistakes that are within your control. When something is not in your control, accept the fact and move on.

Regrets attack our self-esteem, inducing a self-blame game. This leads to lack of confidence, which in turn, takes a toll on our wellbeing. Regrets can easily make or break us. So, let’s try and learn from our regrets, move on, and make our lives better.

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