As I usually do, I was listening to a podcast before nodding off to sleep. This time it was Debbie Millman’s Design Matters, and she was interviewing Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist.
She was talking to him about regret.
That perked my interest.
Who wants to talk about regret? It sounded like it was going to be an interesting ride. It was.
Regret has lessons to teach us if we’ll listen
Here are some of them.
“We don’t just hesitate to rethink our answers, we hesitate at the very idea of rethinking.” And that’s because of our fear of regret.
- Fear of regret can mean fear of learning and relearning. When I heard Adam Grant talking about this it reminded me of Anne Lamott’s SFD – S$hitty First Draft a.k.a. giving ourselves permission to not feel the pressure of having to get it right all the time and especially the first time.
“To say anytime you get some feedback or you get rejected or you fail and it makes you angry or depressed or you have some regrets, those are teachable moments.”
- This is helpful advice. Turn the potential feelings of rejection, and anger into teachable moments.
- The idea of asking yourself some creative questions here can shine the light on learning. For example – what can I learn from this? What’s the best thing about this feedback? What’s good about getting rejected? What is my emotion trying to tell me? (see the next point)
“I think disappointment is often a lesson in preparing more, and anger is a lesson in standing up for yourself.”
- When I heard this I immediately snapped to a memory of a difficult supervisor I had years ago. We were in a meeting with her supervisor and she was lying about my behaviour. I remember being so shocked and so angry that I literally shot to my feet. My anger was directing me to literally stand up and defend myself. (Which I did by the way and she ended up getting fired.)
“I think regret is a lesson in doing some rethinking in the moment as opposed to just in the rearview mirror.”
- Adam Grant says we should think about regret as a lesson – to rethink the moment, and not look backward in the rearview mirror.
- I love the imagery of that. Think in the here and now, without allowing the foggy rearview mirror of regret to cloud your judgment.
“And I don’t think we learn those lessons enough and we don’t spend enough time then revising the emotions that we ultimately think better capture what the experience was all about.”
Can I get a high five?!
Next time you’re tempted to climb into the deep, dark morass of regret remember the lessons it’s here to teach us; whether that’s a teachable moment, to stand up for ourselves, to learn or relearn, and more.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead
- Snuffing out the bothersome flame and then instant regret captured here.
- talk to a friend and/or colleague about the lessons regret can teach us and look to apply them the next time you’re tempted to fall into the pit of regret.
P.S. Curious to know more about your worldview and perspective? I recently launched the online version of my Life Lense® online assessment – which clients from all over the world have benefited from, including many UN agencies. Check it out for outta sight insight!