How to Move On From the Past and Let Go of Regret

Do you ever find that all of your regrets and past mistakes are keeping you from enjoying the good stuff that is happening in your life right now?

If you feel pushed down by the “unfinished” business in your life, you are certainly not alone. Many people find themselves stuck in the past.

Whether you can’t move on from your divorce, or a mishap at your job has shaken your confidence, incompletions from the past can easily overshadow the present moment and make you feel overwhelmed, inadequate and anxious.

They distract you from your current goals and drains your energy.

Even if you’re not facing earth-shattering past events, such as a divorce or job loss, those little incompletions can still add up and dampen your present-day life.

If you find yourself having a hard time moving on from your past and letting go of regret, here is a 3-step exercise you can try to clear your incompletions for good:

Face Your Incompletions

Instead of sweeping your incompletions under the rug, you’re going to begin by taking an inventory of them.

Using the following categories, take a look at your life and consider the gaps between where you are now and where you want to be.

Don’t fret over what to write – just put down whatever comes to your mind:

  • Things I want to start but haven’t started.
  • Things I want to change but haven’t changed.
  • Things I want to stop but haven’t stopped.
  • Things I started but haven’t finished.
  • Things I want to do but haven’t done.
  • Things I want to say but haven’t said.
  • Things I want to learn but haven’t learned.

You may come up with more than one example for each category, which is completely fine. Just try not to overburden yourself with an insanely long list.

Assign Completion Dates

Now that you can clearly identify those gaps mentioned earlier, it’s time to actually set yourself a timeline for getting them done.

Go back to your list and write down a completion date beside each item, using the following symbols:

  • N = Now. That means right this instant.
  • L = Later. These are things you can’t do right away but you have to give yourself a reasonable date to complete them by.
  • C = Complete. Yay! These are the things you can officially declare complete right away since you’ve decided to just let them go and get over them or because you can do them now.
  • NTL = Not In This Lifetime. This is your cop-out for addressing things that you will never realistically be able to do.

For example, if under “Things I want to say but haven’t said,” you want to tell someone how they hurt your feelings, you can pick up the phone immediately and have that conversation – so mark it with an “N”.

Or, perhaps under “Things I want to stop but haven’t stopped,” you’ve decided that you are no longer going to let your ex-partner occupy your mind. Just by making that decision, you can mark that item with a “C”.

For your later items, be sure to establish a clear date of completion – this will hold you accountable for actually completing that task.

Start Crossing Things Off

Remember that you are in charge of this list – this list is not in charge of you.

Begin by crossing off your NTL’s. These are the items you’ll never do or have decided that you don’t want to do anymore.

These are important things to celebrate! Having NTL’s means that you have mentally chosen to let things go and remove them from your reservoir of worry.

Next, cross off your N’s and C’s. Pat yourself on the back for making actionable changes towards letting go of your past.

Check your list at least once a week and get started on those L’s. Be sure to set realistic dates for them to be addressed and make sure you stick with them.

Don’t forget that your list is a work in progress – just like you are!

State of Total Completion

In all honesty, you will never reach a state of total completion. No one ever will.

We’re all human, so it’s impossible to achieve a state of perfection. The best any of us can do is celebrate the gains we have made and accept things that are “good enough”.

Starting this list creates a powerful new habit that will allow you to focus your attention on embracing the present, rather than being drawn back into the dark corners of your past.

Are you ready to move on from your past and let go of regret?

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