Regret a Useful Tool for a Better Future

According to an Australian palliative care nurse and blogger, some of the top regrets expressed by dying patients include not having lived an authentic life, abandoning friendships, and not pursuing one’s dreams.  People are often encouraged to live with “no regrets”, but most overwhelmingly choose comfort and security in life rather than taking risks, something they may one day regret.  Regret, however, can be a useful tool, it can help us make bolder choices in the future and teach us what is most important in order to live a better life going forward. 

According to a recent Maria Shriver article, author of The Power of Regret:  How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward Daniel H. Pink offers a different message than we may be accustomed to hearing.  He reminds readers that having regrets in life is not only normal but can have purpose by helping us to make amends, clarify what we value, and propel people forward to live healthier, bolder futures with greater attention to core values and meaningful connection. 

Pink isn’t suggesting we ruminate endlessly on our past failings, but by acknowledging regrets, we can learn more about ourselves and continue to grow.  Without being too hard on oneself, regret can be instructive and facilitate healing and personal development.  It may begin with admitting a regret to someone you have wronged or sharing missed opportunities with others. Writing down your regrets, or having meaningful conversations can help people reframe negative emotions and use their experiences from the past to make better decisions.   

Pink’s book is based on research in psychology, neuroscience, economics, and biology as well as his own data on American attitudes about regret in his World Regret Survey of more than 16,000 people in 105 countries.   He believes that understanding what people regret the most can lead to a better understanding of what they value most and help to utilize regret as a pathway towards a better, more positive life.