Regret makes us human. Regret makes us better. – Daniel Pink
– Have you ever been asked about remorse?
Or do you sometimes focus on things you’re not doing or on another path when you’re back on top of your life?
I’m a big believer in being in the present and I’m a big fan of Eckhart Tolle’s power of now. The past is gone, the future will never come. I always liked his quote, “This moment is the moment when you are everything.”
However, I also believe in the power of reflecting and learning from your past and the mistakes you’ve made. As they say, failure is the best teacher!
Some people I know are very quick to say they have no regrets and always look forward and never look back. Personally, I think we all have some regrets from time to time.
We are human, we all make mistakes and make bad decisions. It’s really important that we learn from our experiences, both positive and negative, and that helps us grow.
What I do know is that there is a fine line between thinking and rumination.
Rumination, going around in circles, is not constructive and can lead to low self-worth and obsessive thinking patterns. It’s a rabbit hole I’ve been down many times. I know it well!
Daniel Pink’s best-selling book, The Power of Regrets: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward , regrets can help us make better decisions, perform better, and bring more meaning to our lives.
Pink analyzed more than 20,000 responses to questions about regret. His research shows the importance of regret and how it can enhance our lives as a force for good.
People have regrets in all areas of their lives such as family, relationships, education, career, finances, health.
Pink identifies four main regrets:
The main concern is our security and stability.
Courageous regrets are about missed opportunities. Pink says that over time, people regret what they didn’t do more than what they did.
Moral remorse is not aligning with our core values and not doing what we think is right.
Relationship regret is neglecting the people who give us substance and purpose in our lives.
According to Pink, we can turn regret into a positive force in our lives through a 3-step process.
Step 1. Self-criticism: Release and lightness
We can talk about our thoughts, feelings, and actions about regret, and even think about what we can learn and how it has made us grow as a person.
This first step helps us organize and connect our thoughts and has many physical and mental benefits.
Step 2. Self-compassion: Normalize and neutralize
We can be our own worst enemies. When we do wrong to ourselves, we tend to treat others worse than we do to others. Your inner critic can have a field day! On the contrary, it is better if we are kind to ourselves. Be our best friend! ”
As we feel sorry for ourselves, we exclude the unpleasant stories that happened to us and realize that this is an unpleasant moment instead of defining our life.
Step 3. Self-Regulatory: Analyze and Strategise
We can act wisely and look at our feelings of regret from a distance. Without judging ourselves and seeing the problem from another point of view. We can look at our regrets through the lens of the future. How would regret then make us feel? By doing so, it can lose its power.
Pink suggests that we can address our regrets in the second person. Research has shown that calling oneself “you” rather than “I” can strengthen our commitment to improving our behavior.
Health scientist Sonya Lyubomirsky from the US has some excellent research showing that writing about negative experiences makes us feel better. Revealing them to us feels like a burden has been lifted and will help us understand them.
I’m a big believer in personal reflective writing and how doing it regularly can really enhance your life. One positive action you can take when you feel you have regretful memories and you’re on the path to rumination is to write about your regret every day for a few days. Writing it down can take away the power of regret.
By following Pink’s 3 steps above, we can ease the burden of carrying regrets. Practicing self-compassion helps us reframe it as human suffering, and self-criticism helps us move forward.
Although regret is usually thought of as a negative emotion, it can help us learn and grow. As Pink said, regret not only makes us human; it also makes us better.