“Regret is neither dangerous nor abnormal. It is a deviation from the steady path to happiness. It is healthy, universal, and an integral part of being human. It dictates: Done right, it doesn’t have to bring us down, it can lift us up.” ~Daniel H. Pink
It happened when I reached middle age.
I’ve felt frustrated before, but this time it’s different.
In my 40s, I was troubled with some deep-seated regrets at the same time.
And I didn’t handle it very well.
I wish I hadn’t chosen to get into unhealthy habits that were hard to break, like smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol.
If only I had tried to understand myself and establish my identity earlier in life.
I wish I had gotten the psychology degree that I really wanted.
I wish I had taken responsibility for my own financial health instead of giving it away to my husband.
I didn’t know better, so I immersed myself in this kind of regret, reflecting on my past mistakes and increasing my self-criticism.
so many could have been and What if.
Heartbreak and grief followed.
It’s safe to say I was really stuck there for a while.
Thankfully, working with a therapist has allowed me to safely deal with my emotions and reframe my regrets as an opportunity for growth rather than a threat.
Over time, I learned to practice self-compassion and calling a therapist. Neutralize Negatives and Promote Positives.
I have learned that I can draw lessons from my regrets and use them to continue to grow into the best version of myself and build a more fulfilling life.
I learned that regret can be a positive force for good.
The poet and wise woman Maya Angelou said: And when we know better, we do better. ”
Fast forward to 2022 and one of my favorite authors, Daniel H. Pink, has published his amazing book. The Power of Regret: How Looking Back Can Move Us Forward.
Reading Pink’s research, inspiring stories, and practical lessons made me think: I wish I had understood all this then. ”
Unlike sadness and disappointment, regret is a unique emotion because it stems from our agency. It is not imposed on us. Rather, it arises from the choices we make and the opportunities we miss.
Intrigued by this powerful emotion, Pink embarked on a journey of qualitative research inviting people from all walks of life to share their regrets.
The response was overwhelming, with tens of thousands of stories pouring in. Through this process, Pink compiled, categorized, and analyzed her regrets, unearthing valuable insights to help her navigate life’s complexities.
One of the key findings was that inaction regrets outnumbered action regrets by a ratio of 2 to 1, and this trend increases with age. .
Regrets for actions such as marrying the wrong person are often alleviated by finding solace in other aspects of life. For example, someone who feels they have married the wrong person might say, “At least I have wonderful children.” But regret for doing nothing lacks this silver lining.
Pink identified four main types of regrets that she tends to group together. He calls it “deeply structured regret.” They all reveal human needs and bring lessons.
Fundamental regrets arise from failing to lay the groundwork for a stable and fulfilling life, such as failing to save money for retirement or neglecting physical health.
I now realize that most of my regrets fall into this category, including the ones I shared above. Foundation Regret looks like this: If I do the job
Human needs: Stability – the basic infrastructure of educational, economic and physical well-being.
lesson: Think ahead I do the work. Get started now. Build your skills and connections.
Regret of Boldness
As we age, the regrets that haunt us revolve around missed opportunities rather than the risks we take. Whether it’s starting your own business, pursuing true love, or exploring the world, missed opportunities weigh heavily on our hearts.
Bold regret goes something like this: If I had taken that risk.
Human needs: to grow as a person.
lesson: Please start that business. Ask him out on a date. Let’s go on that trip.
Moral remorse stems from acts that go against our kindness and decency, such as bullying, infidelity, and unfaithfulness. they sound like this: if i’m doing the right thing.
Human needs: to be good.
lesson: When in doubt, do the right thing.
Connection regrets often center around missed opportunities to maintain relationships due to fear of awkwardness. they sound like this: If you reach out
Human needs: Love and meaningful connection.
lesson: If a relationship you hold dear is crumbling, get over the awkwardness and reach out.
do regret right
So how do we deal with regret in a way that enriches our lives? How do we do it right? Pink suggests his three-part strategy: turn inward, turn outward, and move forward.
look inward This includes restructuring the way you think about your regrets and practicing self-compassion. We often judge ourselves harshly, but treating ourselves with kindness and understanding leads to healing and growth.
look outside It means sharing regrets with others. We unburden ourselves and gain perspective by being open and expressing our emotions. Talking or writing about regret can help you understand it.
Advance Lessons must be drawn from regret. It’s important to keep your distance and gain perspective. Pink offers hands-on exercises such as speaking to yourself in the third person, imagining a conversation with your future self, and thinking about what advice you would give your best friend in a similar situation.
Additionally, Pink encourages you to “optimize” your regrets rather than trying to minimize them. He suggests creating a “failure résumé” to reflect on past failures and learn from them.
He also recommends combining New Year’s resolutions with regrets from the previous year to turn regrets into opportunities for self-improvement.
In a culture that encourages constant positivity and a “no regrets” philosophy, we find that negative emotions also play an important role in a fulfilling life. I understand better now, but I can’t agree more with Dan. Regret, that infuriating, bewildering, undeniably real feeling, points the way to a fulfilling life. ”