6 Ways to Overcome Regret

We feel regret when we believe that the outcome of our decision was worse than the one we anticipated. We experience a nagging sense of unease about what might have been or should have been.

"Always look forward, never look back" is common life advice. The past is the past so conventional wisdom says think forward.

But in his latest book, "The Power of Regret: How Looking Backwards, Moves Us Forward," New York Times best-selling author Daniel Pink makes a strong argument for the value of reflecting on past disappointments. 

“Regret is not dangerous or abnormal, a deviation from the steady path to happiness," Pink writes. "It is healthy and universal, an integral part of being human. Regret is also valuable. It clarifies. It instructs. Done right, it needn’t drag us down; it can lift us up.”

It can be said that regret is the most painful emotion we feel. The word derives from Old French "regretted," meaning to feel sorry because of something that one has done or omitted.

We feel this way when we believe that the outcome of our decision was worse than the one we anticipated. We experience a nagging sense of unease about what might have been or should have been, and it lingers inside of us, causing us to further lament our mistake.

Pink breaks down regret into four areas: Foundation, Boldness, Moral and Connection.

He argues each has different effects on our minds. In foundation, we wish we would have done the work, affecting our stability. In boldness, we wish we would have taken the risk. This affects our growth. In morals, we wish we had done the right thing, which affects our goodness. In connection, we wish we would have reached out, which affects our gift of giving love.

Like all Pink books, he offers researched solutions to help us offset the regret we experience:

1. After reviewing the area of regret, ask yourself: What now? By acknowledging the regret, the journey towards the next step begins.

2. Pink strongly urges us to practice self-compassion. But, when you have wronged someone, make amends with a genuine apology.  And determine, to learn from this wrong action.

3. When you have missed an opportunity, ask yourself: “How can I set myself up to not miss my next opportunity?” List all the reasons for why you didn’t, and you might find they were invalid.

4. Connect with people with a little more (a lot more) boldness. Being bold is a learned trait, not instinctive.

5. Reconnect. The power of a handwritten note helps offset regret. Don’t let time slip away. Writing notes is the best remedy to remove regret.

6. Determine to learn from your regrets! Journal from regrets of the past and cleanse your mind.

We all have regrets. It’s simply human nature. But when we learn from those moments, we remove the guilt of our mistakes.

Only then can we really move forward.

Subscribe to The Daily Coach

A daily hands-on approach to becoming a better leader. With the help of some unique wisdom as well as an action plan to tackle your day, The Daily Coach aims to be an inspiration in your email inbox each morning. Leading first starts with leading yourself, so whether you're an executive, teacher, or parent... Everyone is a coach.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.