Home world Regret is painful. Here’s how to harness it.

Regret is painful. Here’s how to harness it.

Regret is painful. Here’s how to harness it.
Published September 9, 2023 Updated September 9, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

NEW YORK — As a music reporter years ago, I visited Stevie Nicks at her home. It was a dream assignment: We spent hours in her closet, trying on outfits. We paged through her diary together.

As dusk approached, she offered to have me stay in her guest room. But I declined. Once in a while, I still think: I should have stayed.

Regret, a negative emotion that pops up when we wish we had done something differently, can range from somewhat inconsequential (like turning down a rock star) to significant.

Mr Daniel Pink, author of “The Power of Regret,” surveyed over 4,000 people about their relationship with regret.

He found that regrets fall into four themes: We regret failing to reach out to others; lapses in moral judgment; incremental choices that result in big consequences; and holding back when we should have been bolder.

Here are a few expert tips to help us reckon with regrets.

LOOK INWARD, OUTWARD AND FORWARD. When we make mistakes, “we treat ourselves much more cruelly than we treat anybody else,” Mr Pink said.

Instead, look inward and talk to yourself the way you would a loved one. Then, look outward. Mr Pink suggests confiding in someone you trust, or forming a “regret circle,” in which you trade experiences with others.

Sharing regrets can take away the sting, he said, and helps you realise that “everyone has them, and you feel less terrible and less singular.”

Then look forward by asking: What lessons can I draw from this regret? How can I apply them to my life going forward?

FIGURE OUT IF YOU CAN STILL DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. When Dr Robin Kowalski, a psychology professor at Clemson University, asked people in two studies what they would tell their younger selves, she found that some regrets could be corrected (“cherish your family” or “put money in a savings account”).

In some cases, a redo isn’t possible. But if you’re consumed with regret, and it’s getting in the way of your daily life, consider talking to a counselor.

REFRAME A REGRET BY ‘AT LEAST-ING’ IT. When you’re overcome with regret about an action you did or did not take, Mr Pink said to switch your thinking from “if only” to “at least.”

In the case of Stevie Nicks, I’ve switched to “at least I tried on one of her velvet capes and twirled in her closet.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.