What if the mistakes we make in life that we perceive as mistakes weren’t really mistakes we made at all? What if they were simply steps we needed to take to make sure we got back on the right track or on the path we were meant to be on in the first place? If you were to think of things this way, I bet that would have a powerful change in how you relate to things that have happened in the past.
So many people share with me the things they want for themselves, what they would like to achieve, and visions they have of themselves in their future. What commonly stops them is not just fear or the discomfort of change; the haunting memories of choices they made in the past that they now regret stop them. They then end up replaying in their mind over and over those events that they wish never happened. When you do this, it unfortunately keeps you stuck.
What if making the mistake was the best thing you could have ever done and what was meant for you to do? How would it change your feeling about the choices you make by affirming that regardless of outcome, it supported you in you having what you are wanting? There may be some confusion about this for some of you, especially if you don’t have what you want yet. So if this is shaking things up for you, maybe that’s a good thing.
When you think about things you did in the past that you regret or wish never happened, how does that make you feel? Usually I hear things like exhausted, tired, or sometimes it can be a physical manifestation like a headache or getting sick all the time. Just a few possibilities.
This could make sense too since regretting or wishing that something never happened is a form of beating yourself up. A mental and emotional self-beating where underneath the thought process might be “I should have known better”, or “I’m such an idiot.” Where does this get you? Just in a spiral of self-beating, self-loathing, shame, guilt, and so on.
I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound fun to me. Been there done that. Didn’t enjoy it. I bet you don’t either. Okay so now what? What will set you free? Free from your past that is. Learning is one way but how to get there is another question. One answer is having compassion, compassion for yourself and for others. This is very different than pity, or feeling sorry for, or even excusing one’s behavior, compassion in the sense of providing an understanding.
When you understand either why you did something or why someone else might have, you start to loosen your grip on the negative feeling of regret or wishing it didn’t happen. You also start to remind yourself that you might have chosen to be in a particular situation, or with a certain person, or took an action that may have been intentional.
Okay so it didn’t turn out the way you would have wanted. We can’t control things or other people no matter how hard you try. The only thing you can control is your thoughts. You can have an impact on others but you can’t control them. So when you let that grip go, the grip of trying to control other people, once again this is another way you can start to feel less strain.
So now that you have loosened your grip, maybe even let go completely, accepted that you can’t control others, what’s left? You, your participation and your involvement in the equation. There must have been a good reason you were even in the equation, regardless of what the outcome or result was.
This is where you have a choice, a choice to spiral down the staircase of regret or wishing it wasn’t, or stand powerfully with two feet on the ground with open arms of understanding and acceptance. While you’re standing there like that, why not also explore the possibility of your choice, the choice you made prior to that negative event. If you look back maybe even just 15 minutes, or an hour before it happened, there had to have been some intention there. Most likely it was a good intention.
Or maybe it happened in the moment and was carried out as a reaction or response to someone or something. If it was something you said, maybe it was to protect yourself. Did it help? If not, then what did you learn from it? Maybe it was something you did. If your intention was to benefit someone else, what were you trying to gain by doing it? We all want to be liked and loved; it’s in our most basic human nature. Maybe you learned I don’t have to do that again, or maybe you learned something else.
If it was a situation you were in and wish you hadn’t been, and your regret is because someone else hurt you, that can be a difficult one. Finding your way to compassion for them is to explore the possibility of why they may have done it. Could it have been because of social pressure, financial pressure or the feeling of being trapped? Maybe they didn’t have the emotional tools, resources or courage to have done it differently. Or maybe they felt they had no other choice at all. I want to mention here also that I’m not saying their action was justified or excused.
We all have a choice in every given moment. Most people either forget this or don’t exercise their ability to choose. They might be so focused on the problem that any other solution at the time just didn’t exist. Finding solutions can get you back on the right path. Finding a way to understand and having compassion can get you back on the right path. I would imagine it would be difficult to find even one person on the planet over the age of 5 who hasn’t made a mistake. So since mistakes are part of our path as human beings anyway, why not turn them into the steps we take to getting where we want to go in life?
Like stones on a pathway in front of you, imagine your path is illuminated with a bright light. You intentionally step forward onto each stone with an equal amount of weight. Your right foot, then left, your right, left, right, left, etc. What if each stone was labeled on the bottom with whether or not it was a step or a mistake but you couldn’t see what the label was and you walked forward anyway because you knew by doing so, you would be walking towards what you want. Now imagine that the labels were taken off and each stone was just a stone, each being a step in the right direction. What if I told you that you’re already on that pathway? Keep walking, I promise you’ll be just fine.