Turn Regret Into an Engine of Progress With These 3 Steps

To follow-up on last week’s post I thought I’d share some application, specifically 3 steps to transform your regrets into engines of progress. Since the video I shared in the last post, from Dan Pink, helped me better understand regret by breaking it down into 4 main types, I wanted to learn more about what to do when we find ourself confronted with our own. 

Most of us do one of two things when confronted with regret, we either ignore it completely, which can lead to delusion, or we get so overwhelmed by it we let it exonerate us from making any progress. Instead of leading us to a state of delusion or believing we can never change, regret has the potential to be the engine of progress to get us to where we need to be!   

Reframe the Regret and the Way You Think About Yourself

What is your self-talk like? Think about those conversations you have with yourself when you mess up, or when you’re confronted with past mishaps. How do you treat yourself in these moments? If you’re like me, you’re way harder on yourself than you would be with anyone else in your life. So, the first step in the process is reframing the regret and the way you think about yourself.

When faced with regret, we need to show ourselves kindness instead of contempt. Instead of beating ourselves up with our self-talk we need to remember that regret is part of the human condition, it’s not exclusive to us. We must remember that our mistakes don’t define us, but are part of the process of us becoming the person we want to be. A key part in this growth process is showing ourselves grace as we learn from our mistakes, becoming stronger from them. 

Disclosure! Put a Name to What You’re Feeling

How often do you find yourself lashing out in frustration or simply shutting down as a result of being overwhelmed by your emotions? Most of the time this happens because we have a hard time accurately naming our emotions in any given moment and don’t know what to do with what we’re feeling. So, we react in a way that’s not helpful. 

Dan challenges us to force ourselves to turn these negative emotions into words by either journaling or telling someone how we’re feeling. If we can name the emotion and get to the root of where the feeling is coming from, it becomes less fearsome. When we can talk about our feelings and begin to understand where they come from and how to confront them, they lose the power they have over us. A great resource for this process of naming our emotions is Atlas of the Heart, by Brené Brown.

Extract a Lesson and Make Progress

The final step in this process is to extract a lesson you can use as you plan for future growth. To recap the first two steps, you have to reflect on the emotions you feel when regrets arise, showing yourself some kindness, not contempt. Then, you need to take some time to process the feelings through journaling and/or sharing with someone so that you can name the emotions and know where they came from. 

Once we’ve done these two things it’s time to come up with a plan for how to deal with our emotions in the future. Having a plan in place allows us to be better prepared for future situations where our emotions could get the better of us. And what better way to truly learn something, than to teach it to someone else. So, as you’re working through these steps in dealing with a particular situation, think about how you’d help someone else experiencing these same emotions/regrets. Be the teacher and find the lesson in it, for yourself and for others. 

Putting this into practice will guarantee that not only you learn from your mistakes, but those around you will benefit from the wisdom you’ve gained as well. If we can learn to consistently put these steps into practice, regrets and the emotions that come along with them will no longer be scary and debilitating, but can instead be enlisted as powers we can use for moving forward and growing!

4 thoughts on “Turn Regret Into an Engine of Progress With These 3 Steps”

  1. Great information! A great way to view our opportunities for growth rather than our short comings. As we know, mistakes and missteps are part of the human condition. It is what we do with these opportunities that matter.

    1. Thanks, Denise! And yes, you’re absolutely right. Our best plan for a thriving future is to use the lessons we’ve learned from our past mistakes as our guide for growth going forward. I’m thankful it’s never too late to learn and never to late to grow!

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