In my previous blog, I described four mental hijackers – internally generated distractions that take us out of the present moment and cause us to lose focus and perspective. Now let’s look more closely at two of the hijackers – regret and worry.

Regret causes us to focus on how we’ve let ourselves or others down in the past. Worry makes us absolutely convinced that bad things will happen in the future. Regret and worry commandeer our minds when we are not paying attention. Here’s how to recognize when regret or worry is in the driver’s seat.

Hyper-focus: Remorse about the past
Dominant Moods: Shame, sadness
Mental Headline: “Wish I would have…” “I should have been more…”
Core Deception: I’m supposed to know/be better.

Hyper-focus: Threat in the future
Dominant Mood: Anxiety, fear
Mental Headline: “It’s going to happen and it’s going to be bad…”
Core Deception: I should be able to control it all.

Identifying these patterns is the first step. The second step is to acknowledge this:

The only place from which you can lead is from the present moment. When you are stuck in the past or the future you are not leading in the present.

Here are two practices you can learn to show the hijacker to the door:

Mindfulness Meditation: This is the practice of sitting quietly and focusing on your in- and out-breath. When you notice your mind wandering (usually toward worry or regret) simply say to yourself, without judgment: “that’s a thought” and refocus to your breathing. When I arrive in my office each morning I put in my earbuds and use an app called Headspace which walks me through a ten-minute mindfulness practice. I find it helpful to receive this kind of coaching.

Challenge the Core Deception: I call this “whispering to the hijacker.” Regret and worry are made powerful by your acceptance of certain declarations as true. You can disarm each of these hijackers by taking on the core deception. I’ve developed affirmations as a way to gently disarm each hijacker.

I am not perfect. Mistakes are how I learn. I am a life-long learner.

In an uncertain world, I am resourceful and resilient. Worrying takes me out of the present.

Once these practices are part of your routine, it becomes easy to recognize the hijackers as “a thought” produced by an over-creative mind. You can then use the reference point of your breath, and your affirmations, to return to the present moment.

What are other ways you have learned to disarm the mental hijackers of regret and worry?

Photo credit: Ben Chun

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