Have you ever found yourself replaying an event over and over in your mind, criticizing your action or inaction, saying “I should have done… or Why didn’t I say…”? If this is a common experience for you, I have got some great news for you. Your natural pattern of reflecting is actually a gift! You just need to learn how to use it so that it works for you and not against you. Recognizing that you are reflecting is the first step. So, remember, even though it feels like you’re reliving the moment, you are not! This is your chance to bring about change. So grab a pen and a notebook and write your thoughts down. The act of writing during these moments will remind you that you are here in the present and that you are being intentional about making changes. Although you can’t go back, you can move forward differently.
The second step is to transition from reflecting negatively to constructively. The fact that you’re alive means that there are still opportunities for learning and growth, not just about life but about yourself. By asking yourself questions like, “What is it about me that keeps me going?”and “How did I manage to make it this far?”, you will realize that you have strengths, dreams, goals and passions. These are the things we want to focus on. NOTE: Be prepared to encounter the ‘same old’ negative thoughts. In fact, welcome them as ‘familiar’ and use them as practice. Imagine that you’re building a muscle. The more you use that muscle is the stronger it will get. It will take time, so be fair to yourself and remember you are working on changing a pattern you have had for quite some time.
Step three, change your regrets to goals. Step two will help you with this. By looking at what your strengths and passions are you will find additional courage and direction to move from saying things like, “I should have…” to “I will…”. One thing to keep in mind as you plan your next step, is to make it small enough to manage yet big enough to challenge you. You can do this by considering times when you have done similar things. Trust me, you have not made it this far in life without doing millions of things right!
After years of being bullied I had become a master at masking my fears and dreaming of horrible acts of vengeance on my enemies. Thoughts of “I wish I had…” or “I should have…” permeated most of my life. I felt defeated regularly until I started to focus on what was going well for me. As I thought about those early years, I realized that I was a target because most people actually liked me. And although I was shy and afraid to say the wrong thing, I was actually quite good with words. In fact, I had the ability to use charm and humor to stay safe and to help people feel comfortable around me.
Seeing these traits as strengths led to more frequent and intentional use of them. They have been invaluable! I have had a couple of situations in my adult life that involved co-workers making inappropriate comments to me. I was able to confirm what I heard them say, express how I felt and be clear about what needed to change. I even gave one co-worker options for how he could address me. I left both of those encounters feeling shocked about what I had just heard but also proud and strong because I used my words, quick thinking and my ability to appear calm even when experiencing intense and unpleasant emotions. Even though I didn’t anticipate it, I became closer with both of these people after these challenging encounters.
The ability to reflect is a priceless gift, so be sure to make good use of it. I am sure you can!
Have a great day!