Making Peace With Our Regrets?

Accountability Authenticity Personal leadership


Key point: “If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them. We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly, it reminds us that we know we can do better.”

Sometimes the best thing one can write is already written. The above quote is by journalist and self proclaimed “wrongologist,” Kathryn Schulz from her wonderful presentation on the topic of “regret” as captured in the TED Talks series. It is 17 minutes long but really worth the watch.

Research shows, as pointed out by Ms. Schulz in her presentation, that the biggest areas of regret are around education, career, and relationships.

Recently I have had to focus on my career journey and of course I have regrets. I still feel pain when I reflect on them. But I genuinely have come to understand how imperfect I am and how important working on my flaws has contributed to my personal growth. My regrets have made me a better person. There are documented stages to the psychology of regret and essentially, as Schulz points out, they include denial, bewilderment, and self punishment. They often play like a broken record, over and over and over again.

My challenge has sometimes been the latter part of the regret process: Replaying a continuous loop, essentially calling myself out with unkind self blame… Something like, “how could you be so stupid?” Over the years I’ve become much better at accepting and making peace with my regrets and STOPPING the replay. It is unreasonable and perhaps not even right to just forget or pretend the past is the past. But it is even more important to accept, learn and not hate ourselves for our regrets. We need to make peace with regret!

Character move:

  1. Apply the make peace strategy as neatly captured by
  2. Remember that many, many people have made the same or similar mistakes, have the ability to laugh at ourselves and our humanness (not because what we did was likely funny), and allow time to add perspective and learning. Regret is a benchmark for getting better.

Peace with regret in The Triangle,