A resolution season primer on regret. What's it for and what do we do with it?
Happy Friday the 13th! Which, as you all know, means yesterday was January 12, which (statistically speaking) means at least one of your new year resolutions has been kicked to the curb like a perishable holiday decoration.
Do you regret it?
That’s rhetorical, we’re not here to talk about resolutions. We’re here to talk about regret.
Sounds fun, right?
Before we get into this, would you rather use your ears than your eyes? All this info is from the Nudge podcasts with Dan Pink.
Does the idea of talking about regret make you uncomfortable? Hold on to that feeling for a second.
What is the purpose of regret?
It clarifies what we value and instructs us how to do better in the future via discomfort.
Regret might seem trivial, but it's so complex that we don't begin to develop the ability to experience it until we are about 7 or 8. Aside from children, who else doesn't experience regret? People with brain lesions, degenerative diseases (like Huntington's or Parkinson's), and sociopaths. Anyone else who says they don't have any regrets is lying.
The Flavors of Regret
The most common classes of regret come in 4 flavors.
If only I'd...
Taken that chance = Boldness regret
Done the work = Foundation regret
Done the right thing = Moral regret
Reached out = Connection regret
These can be further simplified into
Action regrets occur when you regret an action you took. You can sometimes undo these regrets or find a silver lining in them.
Inaction regrets are the opposite. And there is nothing to undo and no silver lining.
When in doubt, favor taking action. Bonus, it's usually a form of figuring something out (hey, look, a silver lining).
The types of regrets we regret the most change as we age too.
Be Willing To Act
The 3 Step Plan to Beat Regret
Step 1. Go Inwards
Treat yourself with kindness. Your regrets aren't unique (you're just human).
Step 2. Go Outwards
Release it. Turn the abstract emotions you feel into concrete words (journal).
Step 3. Go Forwards
Find a lesson and learn from it.
This may be easier by self-distancing. Talk through it in second-person so it's more like giving someone else advice. Then take your own advice (the hard part).
If you want more, check out Dan Pink's book The Power of Regret.
Oh yeah, that resolution thread. Let's tie that up.
If you have dropped your resolution and you regret it. Take action. Pick it back up or modify it to something more tangible / manageable.
If you don't regret it, let it go. And don't regret not regretting it.