3 Tips to Harness the Power of Regrets in Life and Work


“Never look back and regret, look back and smile at what you have learned.”

– Michelle C. Ustaszeski-Hutchinson

Let me fill you in on a little secret. We all have regrets. I know we’re told by inspirational gurus everywhere that we should live a life of no regret, but that’s simply not the way we are wired. The key is to recognize and use that regret. Here are 3 tips to harness the power of regrets in life and work.

In Daniel H Pink’s latest book, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, he created the World Regret Survey and looked at 16,000 different regrets that people had shared in over 100 different countries. And the universality of those regrets is undeniable.

Regret is a powerful emotion that all of us as human beings have felt and experienced. Whether you are a business leader, whether you’re an individual contributor, or if you are not even employed, but want to create a better life, here are 3 tips to harness the power of regrets.

First, you need to FACE your regrets. When I use the word face, I mean I don’t want you to deny them, forget them or sweep them under the rug of time. “It happened 20 years ago!” If you want to learn how to use them to give you the life you want, you need to feel them and remember them.

I think it’s common that many of us try to distract ourselves from painful emotions like regret. Really they are there to help us, to guide us, to give us wisdom in moving forward.

(Dan Pink’s book tells us that there are four major areas of regret. To learn more about these, watch the full video above.)

The second principle of dealing with regret after facing your regrets is to FORGIVE your regrets. Now, this is where most of us need to really concentrate our efforts. Some of us shame ourselves into oblivion. When we do this, we are harming ourselves mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

And then there are some of us who go to the other end of the spectrum. We easily let ourselves off the hook. We usually do this by assigning blame to someone else for our regrets. Not taking ownership and responsibility for our own regrets keeps us paralyzed.

But when we face our regrets and we learn how to have self-compassion, or sometimes what we call loving kindness. It’s the same as if you had a best friend or a child that you love. If they made the same mistakes you did, you would treat them with kindness, with respect, with love. Even if you were angry and hurt, you would find a way to show them.

(For some great insight into self-compassion, I cannot recommend highly enough the work of Kristen Neff. She has done some groundbreaking work on the topic.)

Now, here’s the third quick tip, and that is to FORESEE a plan forward with your regrets. This is something you can do on a macro level (think 5-year plan) or even micro level (week-by-week).

Ask yourself, “What regret do I have?” FACE. “What did I learn from it?” FORGIVE. “What am I going to do to fix it or avoid the same regret in the future?” FORESEE.

From the micro, choosing an unhealthy bag of potato chips, to the macro, I had an opportunity to hire a coach or get a certification that would advance my career but didn’t – this is your opportunity to look backward in order to plan forward. You can foresee what regrets you will have, by facing and forgiving the regrets of your past or present.

Which regrets bother you most? Do you regret the actions you took or the actions you didn’t?

If you need help moving beyond your regret and using it as a catalyst for change, schedule your Ask Brent Anything call HERE.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *