Guilt is one of those tricky emotions. Like it says in the title of this post, it can be the stealer of joy. It can leave us paralyzed with fear and regret. This can prevent us from not only discovering the secrets to an amazing life, but, even more importantly, deprive us from living an amazing life. This is why we have to pay close attention to how we handle the emotion of guilt in our own lives.

Guilt, although a terrible master, can be a very powerful servant. Confused? Let me explain. In my own life, I have suffered the effects of guilt many times. I used to just beat myself up over all of the mistakes I made. Do you know what this got me? Not a damn thing. The mistakes were still made and no matter how much I beat myself up over them, they didn’t change. I can tell you what did change – my health. My mental health suffered as you can imagine. Beating yourself up will make you feel like not only a failure, but you can end up making yourself feel like a terrible person for a single mistake, or maybe even several that you made. My physical health suffered. Sitting around feeling guilty and beating yourself up will drain your energy, lower your immune system and make you feel sick to your stomach. Not only will you not be good to yourself, you will not be good for anyone else.

All these emotions can have a tremendous upside. This will help turn a guilty life into an amazing life. Let me give you a personal example. I have made mistakes in personal relationships that caused me to not be the best friend, partner and coworker. It also left me feeling guilty and terrible. Now, I use those feelings as motivation to be the best I can be. When I am on the verge of doing something that is not the most considerate of the feelings of others, I recall how I felt when I did that prior. It will often have me motivated to do better. Even my current mistakes will keep me motivated to improve. If I do something I regret, or feel guilty about, I will use that terrible feeling to motivate me to do better and to remind me not to do it again.

In your own life, turn the feelings of regret and guilt from being terrible masters to powerful servants. It does suck that you cannot go back and change some of the mistakes and hurts you have done in the past, but that terrible feeling can push you into being a far better person in the future. Remember this important thought – If you are feeling guilty for an action you would not repeat, you are convicting an innocent person.


This question, which is a very good one, came about in discussion with a friend who was in the middle of reading my book. She asked “What is your suggestion for someone who is trying to live a happy life who can’t let go of the past?” This is a great question that may be holding a lot of us back. Let’s say you make a decision to start living a more positive, rewarding life from this day forward. You try everything you can get your hands on and make a great effort. Still you have issues from your past that are still bothering you. Well that would be like starting a boat, pushing the throttle all the way forward, but leaving the anchor down. You may go far, you may even break free of that anchor, but not without a good deal of damage. More than likely you will stay attached and start going in circles.

So the question remains. How do you resolve an issue from your past that keeps creeping up? I would have to say the first step is to identify the issue you have that is holding you back. Is it guilt over something you may have done? Is it regret over something you may have not done? Once you gain some clarity on what exactly is the past issue that is preventing you from enjoying your future is, the next step is to get leverage on yourself. What exactly does that mean? Well any issue involving change whether it be moving on from the past or overcoming a challenge we are dealing with in the present is to clearly define the pain we are gaining and the pleasure we are losing by not changing. Sticking with the issue of overcoming the past you must look at what things you may have lost in your present and more importantly may lose in the future by not resolving this issue. Ideally you should write them down so they are staring at you in black and white. On another page or in another column you should also write the pleasure this issue has caused you to sacrifice and what pleasures you will have to give up by continuing to drag this anchor around. After composing these two lists is should become abundantly clear that your past is controlling your life and not you. Is this what you are going to continue to allow? No! You do not necessarily have to go back to the actual people involved. In many cases this is not even possible as they may have moved away or even passed on. What you must do is deal with the issue in your head. Perhaps writing an entry in your journal asking forgiveness or giving forgiveness to someone else or even yourself. Perhaps have an imaginary conversation with that individual. The important part is to change what your past means to you. Change whatever is holding you back into something that empowers you. Find the good, find the lesson, find whatever you need to cut the rope on that anchor and sail the seas of your future!