27 September 2012

Don’t Let Regrets Limit Your Personal Productivity

Regrets. We all have them. Even the most successful and confident people have made plenty of mistakes or bad judgment calls in their life. In fact, most of us have probably made a few in the past week.

If you have trouble letting go of past mistakes or bad judgment calls, it can have a detrimental effect on your self image, as well as your personal productivity. Do you lie awake at night rehashing scenes and imagining what you could have done or said differently? Are you letting negative thoughts affect your self-confidence and hold you back from accomplishing more in life?

When you’re plagued by negative thoughts about mistakes you’ve made, it’s tempting to either indulge them or ignore them. However, neither of these strategies is very helpful. Wallowing in negativity will only make you feel worse and waste your time. And although you might be able to distract yourself in the short term by getting very busy with another task or project (or maybe a glass or two of wine), if you don’t deal with these negative thoughts, sooner or later they’ll return.

So how do you deal with those nagging regrets and reminders of past mistakes? Here are a few strategies that can help you deal with them and move on.

Clean it up. The first thing to do is ask yourself if there is some action you need to take in order to resolve the issue. Is this hanging over your head because something has been left undone? If so, get it done.  Do you need to apologize or initiate a conversation with someone in order to bring some closure to the problem?  If so, do it.  It can enable you to let it go.

Talk to someone. This can be a counselor, a life coach, or a trusted friend. Sometimes just saying the words out loud can help you realize your mistake wasn’t so horrendous after all. And if you’re being too hard on yourself, an outside point of view can help you gain some perspective.

Face the accusations head on. Imagine another person criticizing you in the same way you are criticizing yourself. Now defend yourself to this imaginary person. Say, “I’m not perfect. Everybody makes mistakes.” Explain what you learned from the experience. Then tell your accuser, “Now, leave me alone!”

Push the thoughts away. Once you’ve acknowledged and dealt with the feelings the best you can, if those persistent little buggers come back, it might be time to simply push them away. Imagine yourself hanging up a phone on the thoughts, or putting them in a boat and watching them drift off to sea. You know they might be back, but you have nothing else to say to them, so next time they return you can just push them away once again.

Replace the negative with positive. Research shows that you can’t feel stress and gratitude at the same time. So try some positive thinking. Focus on the blessings in your life, the things you are grateful for. Those negative ruminations can’t coexist in the same space with all that gratitude. You can even begin your day by writing a list of ten things you are grateful for. Surround yourself with reminders of the blessings in your life. The more you train your mind to focus on the positive, the more optimistic you will feel, and those negative thoughts will be crowded out.

As a life coach, I have helped many people learn to stop beating up on themselves and adopt more constructive behaviors. Contact me to schedule a no-fee initial meeting (by phone or in person) to learn more about my services and determine whether coaching might be helpful for you.

Categories: Productivity