Have you ever done something that you regret? Or avoided doing something that you now regret not doing? I have a feeling that most of us can answer yes to one or both of those questions.
Now, ask yourself: Do you believe that your regret is unique to you? That is, do you think that no one else has ever messed up as you have?
Regardless of your specific action (or lack of action), it must be kind of lonely if you believe that you are the only person who’s ever done something foolish.
In “The Power of Regret,” Dan Pink discusses regret with an eye to how we can use our regrets to move forward. Based on results from a huge international survey, Pink concluded that most regrets fall into one of four categories: Foundation, Boldness, Moral and Connection. He calls these the four core regrets.
The Foundation regrets are instances when we didn’t act responsibly, things like not taking care of our health, finances, education, work, etc.
Boldness regrets are the chances that we didn’t take or the opportunities that we didn’t pursue. Whether it was travel, work, school, or love, we didn’t go for it. Now we’ll never know how things might have turned out if we’d had more courage.
The Moral regrets are the times when we weren’t the good person that we want to be, when we cheated or lied or behaved badly.
Finally, the Connection regrets are about the neglected relationships, misunderstandings that we didn’t clear up, arguments we didn’t have to contribute to, the empathy we couldn’t be bothered to show.
As Pink discusses transforming regret into something that can help us move in a positive way, he asked a question that strikes me as useful for many troubles, not just regrets.
He asks, “Is this type of regret something that other people might have endured, or are you the only person ever to have experienced it?”
Let’s think about that for a bit. If something is troubling you at this moment—perhaps it’s a regret, an anxiety, a resentment, an anger, a conflict, whatever—ask, “Has anyone else ever been through this?”
Essentially, Pink’s answer is that if you think that the world has it out for you alone, you’re almost certainly mistaken. The reality that so many people’s regrets fit into four simple categories suggests that our regrets are pretty common. Even when they seem unique to us, we’re not alone.
Maybe you’re not troubled by regret, but by anger, hurt, fear, guilt, or something else. Regardless of what’s eating at you, it’s unlikely that you’re the only one with this experience.
Does that help? We know it can help when we share our troubles with a friend. It’s comforting to laugh and hear, “I’ve done that too!”
Every difficulty will not have a happy ending. However, I think it can help if we choose to take heart from knowing that we’re not the only one with regrets, failings, fears and troubles. Does knowing this help you forge on through another day?
One of the surveys that Pink used is the World Regret Survey. Over 19,000 people have participated so far. If you’d like to be one of them, you can do so at www.worldregretsurvey.com
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
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- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
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