How to deal with regret and *bad* decisions
We make an infinite number of decisions every day
From deciding whether to get out of bed or hit that snooze alarm just *one* more time, to more complex choices such as career direction or whether to remain in a romantic relationship.
When we make decisions, we influence our emotional well-being and overall life satisfaction. Decisions that result in positive outcomes, leave us feeling empowered and pretty damn good about ourselves. However, at times, we are faced with decisions where the *right* option is not an obvious one, where there are competing demands and a pros and cons list just won’t cut it.
We’re complex creatures making complex decisions
Being faced with these more complex decisions are where we can get stuck. Complex decisions can be confronting to a person and can often be the source of psychological discomfort and distress. What can make things trickier is if after a long and often gruelling process of deliberation, we finally picked “Option A”, only to realise a week later, it turns out that “Option B” would have been *better*
Inevitably in life, with all its twists and swirls, we will likely make some decisions along the way that we perceive as *bad* and often, this can lead to feelings of regret…
Regret – is a negative cognitive or emotional state that involves self-blame for an unfavourable outcome. We can be riddled with intense feelings of loss or sorrow over the “what if?” or spend hours wishing we could undo a previous decision. Regret can be a tricky one to untangle, and this is often accompanied by our unpopular friend – Hindsight.
Hindsight – or “knew-it-all-along” phenomenon can make us feel pretty shitty about our decision-making skills, by tricking us into believing that the outcomes of our decisions were more predictable than they actually were. It is common for us to see potential outcomes more clearly after the fact simply because we have more information than we did before the choice.
our 5 tips for coping with *bad* decisions and regret:
1. Accept responsibility
Though it may not be obvious, there is often a nugget of wisdom to be found when we own up and take responsibility for your actions. Sometimes when we sit back and say “yep, I messed up” (how human of you!)– owning your actions can free you from looking back and instead, move forward to focus on what is in our control.
2. Realise that you did your best with what you had
It’s important to understand that we can only make decisions using the knowledge we have at the time. Try not to beat yourself up or get trapped in the hindsight phenomenon. Take comfort in that you did your best with what you had, and let that be good enough.
3. Use your experience as a learning curve
We are constantly learning from experience, and sometimes, the best learnings come from the *messy* moments in our lives. When things don’t turn out the way we thought, it’s important to find and acknowledge the learnings that emerge from it and use with newfound knowledge to your advantage in the future.
4. Remember that literally no one is perfect
Everybody and we mean EVERYBODY stuffs up sometimes. So, let’s make sure we aren’t placing an unrealistic expectation on ourselves. We, humans, are complex creatures with a range of experiences and emotions. Proceed with caution when comparing yourself to those who only seem like they have it all figured out (AKA Instagram is a highlight reel).
5. Welcome your emotions
Our emotions always serve a function. Allowing ourselves to sit with our emotions helps us to understand why we feel the way we do and gives us an opportunity to develop coping strategies that help make us more resilient.
Ps. No matter how hard we may try, we can’t avoid unpleasant emotions forever and we certainly don’t feel much better if we beat ourselves up over them. Instead, try gently engaging with your feelings, remembering to be self-compassionate.
Feel the feels because no feeling is permanent – even the tough one’s we promise.
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This post was written by @laurabeddoe Provisional psychologist and Indigo’s freelance content creator. If you have any requests or suggestions for blog content, you can get in touch with her here.