No one wants to look back and realize they regret doing something or not doing something. Have you ever made a wrong turn and encountered a large sign proclaiming "WRONG WAY - DO NOT ENTER?" I bet you instantly regretted making that turn. Luckily you have the option of turning around and changing directions. You may regret making that wrong turn, but you can also choose not to dwell on it, make the correction, and move on. Continue reading so you have "No Regrets."
Using Regret to Our Advantage
There are many celebrities and political figures who have said or tattooed on themselves some version of “No Regrets.”
But No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Daniel H. Pink said we all have regrets, and he maintains that they are good for us. And since we all have regrets, we may as well use them to our advantage and do something with them.
“Regret is to my mind, our most misunderstood emotion,” Pink noted in a recent TED video.1 Research for his new book confirmed that everybody has regrets. “The only people without regrets are 5-year-olds, people with brain damage, and sociopaths. The rest of us have regrets. And if we treat our regrets right – and that’s a big if – regrets can actually make us better.”
At a recent conference in our financial services industry, Pink took to the stage to talk about the lessons from his newest book The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward. He talked about research he conducted that brought him to the conclusion that regret can make us better with our decision-making skills, make us better at negotiating and strategizing, and enhance our sense of our life’s purpose.
Pink collected more than 16,000 regrets from around the world and started to notice that regrets fell under four categories: foundation regrets, boldness regrets, connection regrets, and moral regrets. Here is a bit of a deeper dive into each of these regrets:
Pink notes that these types of regrets can be exemplified by Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” You remember how the story goes: the grasshopper is playing his fiddle and having good times all summer long, teasing the ant for working to store food for the winter. Then when the winter comes, the ant and his family are enjoying nice meals in the warmth while the grasshopper and his fiddle are both freezing.
That’s what these regrets are like – they're about not preparing for something you knew was going to happen.
Within the realm of foundation, regrets are things like not saving enough for retirement, spending frivolously, not pursuing advanced degrees, not taking care of health, having poor eating habits, and not exercising enough.
“These kinds of regrets are about making choices that didn’t allow you to have some stability,” Pink noted.
You’re already ahead of the game learning from – and perhaps avoiding – foundation regrets as you’ve taken the leap to work with us to define and work toward your financial freedom.
But if you find yourself saying, “if only I had done the work,” that’s likely a foundation regret. When you think of ways to harness this, think of the Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”2. You can explore those foundation regrets and brainstorm ways to plant those trees now. If you have financial regrets, call us and we can work on them.
Can you remember a time when you wanted to speak up or do something you were scared to do but didn’t? Do you still think about that and wish you had done something differently?
Many people have these types of boldness regrets. Pink notes that these range from missing the opportunity to ask somebody out to people wishing they had the bravery to start the business they wanted to start.
“We get to a juncture in our life where we can play it safe or take a chance,” Pink noted. “What I found is overwhelmingly people regret not taking the chance.”
He went on to note that people who did take a chance and failed had less regret than the people who didn’t take the chance at all.
Boldness regrets sound like, “If only I had taken that chance.” Is there something you want to do that you’re holding back? Or is something that you regret not doing that we can work together to plan for?
These regrets also stem from a juncture: that moment when you have a choice to do the right thing or do the wrong thing.
Pink noted that one 71-year-old New Jersey woman noted that she still feels regret from when she was a child for stealing a candy bar whenever she could from the local grocery store.
“For 60 years, she’s been bugged by this moral breach,” Pink said.
He laid out for conference attendees that these types of regrets range from infidelity to bullying. He cited one poignant story of a person feeling regret for going from the bullied to the bully and giving a kid a horrible nickname that stuck throughout the school.
Moral regrets sound like, “If only I’d done the right thing,” Pink said.
This type of regret stems from having a relationship you regret not nurturing.
Pink noted that oftentimes the relationships in connection with regrets aren’t blown up by some traumatic event; rather, the people simply drift apart. Then people don’t want to reach out because they think it might be awkward.
“One of the lessons that I learned from this book for myself is always reach out,” Pink said. This type of regret sounds like, “If only I’d reached out.”
‘A Photographic Negative of the Good Life’
The key takeaway is this: if you can explore your regrets in each of these categories, you may be able to better identify some of your values and pinpoint what you consider a good life.
“By studying regret, we know what constitutes a good life,” Pink said. “A life of stability, a life where you have a chance to take a few risks, a life where you’re doing the right thing, and a life where you have people who love you and whom you love.”
Let us help you explore what a good life looks like, and let’s work together to learn from our regrets and make a good life a reality.
Please feel free to contact my team or me; we will work together to avoid as many regrets as possible. Or take the regrets you may have and learn from them.
David S. Dixon, CFP®
FYI: Click on the link below, "2022 YEAR-END CHECKLIST," for more helpful information.
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This material was prepared by Carson Coaching. Carson Coaching is not affiliated with LPL Financial or Dixon Financial Group, LLC.