Regret is Not a MistakeSince I've never bought into the "je ne regrette rien" attitude toward reflecting on my life, I naturally perked up when I came upon a brief piece endorsing regret in the April 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review.
Written by Michael Craig Miller, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, "Go Ahead, Have Regrets" offers several suggestions for handling regret as a helpful emotion that can be a means of personal growth.
Dr. Miller's suggestions are:
- Don't be too hard on yourself. "What you should have done always seems clearer in retrospect than it was at the time." Dr. Miller calls this "hindsight bias."
- Use regret to improve your decision making and clarify your values. This is something in the way of using the after action review technique, in which you reflect on what you were aiming for (or, in retrospect, what you now realize you should have been aiming for), and identify what has to change in order to do better in the future. Dr. Miller points particularly to revisiting your de facto priorities and adjusting them, as necessary, to get yourself headed to better outcomes.
- Balance regret and risk. "Instead of choosing a less risky option that you are least likely to regret, choose the one that will maximize your chance of reaching realistic goals."
- Turn to others for support. They can boost your resilience and confidence.