Regret. It’s such a powerful emotion, and can be destructive if allowed to run rampant. However it can also be useful if harnessed correctly, if cast in the appropriate perspective. For instance, I regret not looking after my body better when I was younger. These days my joints ache more than is necessary. However, the crimes against my body happened in my youth, so all the regret in the world is not going to change anything. 

Therefore I harness my regret and use it as a powerful motivator to change my life for the better now. I use it to encourage me to eat well, to practise yoga regularly, to take time for me. I have used that emotion to my benefit now, and feel physically and spiritually stronger for it.

The same principle can apply to any other regrets you may have. Like not starting your own business sooner for example, or perhaps for not being more available for your kids when they were younger. If you’re regretting murdering someone then there’s not really much I can do for you, turn yourself in. 

But if you’re wallowing in self-pity because you didn’t have the courage to pursue a business venture that would have been awesome, or you’re full of remorse because you missed bedtime stories for a few years because you were tied to your office desk, or commuting, then that’s more encouraging. The great news is that you can harness those regrets that may be lurking in your conscience, and use them as a powerful motivator to change your life for the better, right now.

Be good to yourself

Whilst I say ‘right now’, I must caveat it by saying that the process will start right now. You probably won’t want to quit the day job immediately; after all, you’ve got bills to pay. However you can certainly start preparing yourself right now, and it begins with acknowledging and accepting what has already happened. You have already made your choices, based on whatever priorities you had before. Whether they turned out to be the best choices you could have made is largely irrelevant, other than to take note for the future so you don’t repeat such choices. If they were, in hindsight, bad choices then so be it. You cannot change them now.

Holding on to a sense of regret will only hold you back as you attempt to move forwards. So be kind and forgive your former self for whatever happened. We are our own harshest critics and can say the most hurtful things to ourselves. We know that speaking like that to our children will only be harmful, right? So don’t do it to yourself. Speak with kindness and understanding, and positivity.

Harness your emotions

Now imagine that you are a rancher. Yes, a rancher. Cowboy hat, denim shirt, chaps, the whole nine yards. However it’s your first day on the job and you’re looking at a wild stallion bucking around the paddock, and your ass is twitching. How can you possibly harness the raw power of that animal and bring it under your control? Well, you won’t do it by just thinking about it, nor will you manage it first time either, so cut yourself some slack and expect that it’s going to be a process, and it will take time.

The stallion is your regret, and its hooves are the associated feelings of self-loathing and doubt. Studying those feelings and speaking about them in a gentle, soothing tone is your first step. Recognise their patterns and come to understand them. You will see that they are simply based on frustration at yourself because you have higher expectations. This is such an important realisation because your perceived weakness is actually a distorted reflection of the ambition and strength you have. 

As you think more deeply about why you are experiencing regret you will begin to see that it is a feeling of frustration driven by your own desire to do the best you can, for you and for your family. Suddenly the flailing beast seems less intimidating and has less control over you. You are now ready to start exerting your control.

Saddle Up

It’s time for you to take the next step on your journey. You began with a nod to the past, to identify what is really driving you. You tamed the beast. Next is to haul yourself up and decide on your destination. You always wanted to work for yourself because it would give you the freedom to make your own decisions, be your own boss, be adventurous, manage your own time. These are the targets that you regret not hitting before, so re-focus on them now and make your plan.

Running your own business, whatever its size, is a challenge. The emotional cost to you will be significant. The planning, the fretting, the enormity of realising that you are now responsible for everything. These are all costs. But the returns you get are astonishing. The joy of seeing your creation come to life, then the challenge of nurturing it and the reward of finally living the life you always wanted to live. The time you have to spend with your family, because you only have to answer to yourself. These are the returns. 

Once you have learned to harness your self-destructive emotions, like fear and regret, and turn them into powerful motivators, then you will discover an inner strength you never knew you possessed. Feelings and emotions are a part of life and we would not be human without them. But rather than taking them at face value and framing them as negative experiences it is much more helpful to use them as a force for positive change. Harnessing your emotions to help you achieve a more prosperous and contented future is totally within your grasp. The only regret you will then have is, of course, that you didn’t do it sooner.