Coach Kim: Do you have regrets in your past? Here's how to let them go

In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares what regret is and how to move on and let your past go.

In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares what regret is and how to move on and let your past go. (Marjan Apostolovic, Shutterstock)

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Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Regret is a negative state of consciousness that brings feelings of disappointment, angst, pain, guilt or shame because of something we did or didn't do. It is something we all experience at times, as we all have decisions we wish we could go back and change.

Our regrets can haunt our present and cause us to miss opportunities to show up today. We also fear that bad decisions mean we weren't good enough, and we grieve the lost opportunities down the roads we didn't take.

But, we can't change the past. Worrying and stressing over past mistakes just robs today of its potential joy.

It is interesting to note that a recent study published in the journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that people experience more regret over the things they didn't do than the things they did. Is that true for you? Do you regret the chances, trips and opportunities you didn't take or try?

Either way, every second you spend agonizing over the past, you are missing opportunities to be present, connect with people around you, or do things that matter now. If you spend time in regret on a regular basis, here are some suggestions for ways to let go of the past.

Make sure you have experienced the grief and pain

When you lose opportunities or make mistakes it is natural to feel some regret and grieve for the loss. You must allow yourself to feel these emotions and sit with them. They are part of the human experience, and it is healthy to allow yourself some time to feel disappointed, but you don't want to live there.

You might give yourself a limited time — like one week or one hour — to fully feel the pain and regret and then be done with it. Decide that it doesn't serve you in any way to live there, so you are going to chose to be present and make good choices today.

Stop asking 'what if' questions

You cannot change the past, so spending time imagining how things could have been if you had made different choices doesn't serve you at all. Instead, ask yourself "What will happen if I keep regretting this decision for the rest of my life? What is regret giving me? What is regret going to create in my life? What would life look like if I let regret go?"

Forgive yourself

The best way to forgive yourself for past mistakes is to choose the belief that human value is unchangeable, infinite and equal: all humans have the same value. This means your mistakes were interesting lessons that taught you things, but they don't mean anything about who you are and they don't change your value.

If you choose to see your past choices as the perfect classroom for you and believe they served you in some way, it is easier to forgive yourself. Everyone makes some mistakes and you are not worse or less than because of yours. They are nothing but lesson experiences.

Try journaling

Spend some time writing out all your regrets and disappointments. Make a list of all the times life didn't go well for you, you lost or were mistreated. Then make a list of all the things that went your way. Write all your wins, good-luck experiences, and positive turns of events. Make sure you write down all your blessings and the positives in your life. Understand that the nature of this journey is that life is filled with both good and bad experiences and they all are meant to teach you things.

See life as a perfect classroom

Whichever road you took, it taught you things your soul needed to learn. That's how the universe works. You never miss the perfect classroom experiences for you because the universe knows what it is doing.

The amazing Eckhart Tolle said, "Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness." If you believe this and trust the universe, you will see that it is always conspiring to teach and grow you. Even the losses can be lessons and blessings.

See mistakes as locations on your journey

What is a mistake anyway? Is there such a thing? Maybe all your choices were the perfect classroom choices for you and not mistakes at all. You could choose to see mistakes as locations on your journey, not a reflection of who you are.

I went through a series of bad relationships. Those were life experiences that taught me many things, but they didn't change my value and they didn't define who I am. They were just things I experienced. I have traveled through divorce, being a single parent, experiencing financial troubles, etc. These experiences were interesting parts of my journey, but they aren't about my value.

Do a regret exercise

Make a list of the choices you regret. Then write down 10 positive things that each of those choices has brought into your life. This is an exercise Viktor Frankl, author of "Man's Search for Meaning," recommended to his patients. If you can see the positive impact those wrong choices had on your life, you will feel differently about them. Seeing the lesson will lessen the sting.

Often those choices taught you important things about the kind of person you don't want to be. They made you less judgmental of others. They helped you become who you are today. Thank yourself for making those choices and choosing those beautiful lessons. You were right on track in your perfect classroom journey (or you can choose to see it that way if you want to).

Forgive other people for their mistakes

The way you feel about your own mistakes and the way you judge or criticize others for their mistakes are intricately tied together.

If you are quick to judge others and see their faults as making them unworthy, you will likely also see your own flaws as making you unworthy, too. If you decide to give everyone the infinite, unchanging value I mentioned earlier, you will find that you feel your unchanging value, too.

You love yourself the same way you love others, so a powerful way to feel better about yourself is to forgive others and let them be worthy despite their mistakes, faults or flaws. Make this a daily practice. The more you see them as worthy and love them where they are, the more you will also love yourself.

Life is School

Understand that your life isn't a test where you have to perform well and earn your value. It isn't a contest that compares your performance with others; it is a school where you are here to learn and experience things that will help you become smarter, stronger and more loving.

Stop comparing yourself with others. They are in a different class. You are the only one in your class.

The classroom of life requires you to experience wins and losses. It wants you to get to experience regret, guilt, shame and pain so you can fully understand the human experience. But these experiences don't determine who you are or they don't change your value, and they definitely don't define you. Let the past go. It is over and gone. Be present today and show up with trust and love. Keep your focus on the good you can do in the world today.

You can do this.

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About the Author: Kim Giles

Coach Kim Giles is a master life coach and speaker who helps clients improve themselves and their relationships. She is the author of "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and has a free clarity assessment available on her website To read more of her articles, visit Coach Kim's author page.

Editor's Note: Anything in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended, nor should it be interpreted, to (a) be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition; (b) create, and receipt of any information does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. You should NOT rely upon any legal information or opinions provided herein. You should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel; and (c) create any kind of investment advisor or financial advisor relationship. You should NOT rely upon the financial and investment information or opinions provided herein. Any opinions, statements, services, offers, or other information or content expressed or made available are those of the respective author(s) or distributor(s) and not of KSL. KSL does not endorse nor is it responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any opinion, information, or statement made in this article. KSL expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.

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Coach Kim Giles is a master life coach and speaker who helps clients improve themselves and their relationships. She is the author of "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and has a free clarity assessment available on her website. Learn more at


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