We’ve all done it. Looked back and said, “Gosh I wish I hadn’t done that.” Decisions we made, things we did or didn’t do that led to an unfortunate, uncomfortable, or disappointing experience. Many times our failures can be tracked back to a decision we made, failed to make, or even made too hastily. Likewise, success can be viewed in the same way. But if you stop to look at the critical moments of your life, or your crucible moments as they’re often called, you may find a new tool in your bag worth using. Regret.
Oddly enough “woulda, coulda, shoulda” could play a key role in helping to improve your decision-making. How so?
Let’s imagine I have an important decision to make. Could be personal, could be professional, it really doesn’t matter which. I start by looking at the information I have in hand. What do I know, what don’t I know? What feelings or emotions strike me as I think through the different paths I could take in making this decision? Perhaps I take the step to do a typical Pros and Cons sheet. I write down all the positive things that could happen if I make Decision “A” along with the negative. I do the same for Decision “B”. I tally up all the pros from each chart and the one with the most is typically the path I take. These are all fairly standard techniques in decision-making. Now let’s add Regret.
Imagine 6 months have passed and you’re not in the place you had hoped you’d be. Something went wrong along the way and things just didn’t turn out as you expected. You’re unhappy, miserable, and regretting things. Now come back to the present and ask yourself, what would I have done different to change that regretful outcome? Maybe 6 months from now that diet didn’t work and I actually gained weight. I may have regretted not working out 6 days a week, or eating that bag of potato chips every night. Six months from now I may have failed my Chemistry class. I may have regretted not studying enough, or asking for extra help from my professor. Or maybe 6 months from now I’ve missed my sales goal again. I may regret not making those extra calls each day when I quit at 5 pm. I might regret not going to a networking event because it dug into my personal time.
Regardless of whether you have a personal or professional regret, using the positive power of regret may just help you make a different decision in the present that results in a better outcome in the future. Regret can be a powerful tool when combined with visualization. Visualize yourself in that unhappy moment, the failure you may feel, the disappointment that weighs on you. Now take those feelings and ask what would I have done differently? Regret often times gives you a second chance if you embrace it properly.
As Henry David Thoreau said, “Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”