How to transform your regret into a positive force
Be honest: Did you overindulge at your Thanksgiving feast?
If so, you and your food baby are not alone.
Irresistible foods are at the heart of this Fall holiday: delicious roast turkey, savory stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and its quintessential dessert, pumpkin pie.
And for most, those goodies are too tempting to pass up.
It’s estimated that Americans take in up to 4,500 calories at their Thanksgiving celebrations—about twice that of a typical day.
Even though a study found that 60% of Americans believe they deserve to indulge in holiday treats, the accompanying regret they feel after overdoing it is still very real.
The truth is that everybody feels regret—and not just about overeating at Thanksgiving.
It’s an emotion Daniel Pink says has been largely misunderstood.
In his bestselling book, The Power of Regret, Pink draws on research in psychology, neuroscience, economics, and biology to contend that while regret may be universal, it need not be negative.
Pink argues that regrets operate as a “photographic negative” of a good life. We can understand what we value most when we understand what we regret.
And when we engage those regrets in new ways, we can transform them into a positive force for working smarter and living better.
Pink suggests using this three-step process to deal with regrets:
Though most feel uneasy about revealing details of their regrettable action (or inaction), Pink says disclosing our thoughts, feelings, and actions — either by telling others or simply writing about them — brings many physical, mental, and professional benefits. The act of self-disclosure also forces us to organize and integrate our thoughts. Plus, by divulging the regret, we reduce some of its burden, which can help us make sense of it.
Once you disclose your regret, self-compassion is the most powerful way to deal with that exposure. When we mess up, we tend to treat ourselves far worse than we would ever treat others facing the same mistake, but that’s counterproductive. Instead, we’re much better off extending ourselves the same kindness, warmth, and understanding we’d offer a good friend. By normalizing our negative experiences, says Pink, we neutralize them.
After self-disclosure relieves the burden of carrying a regret and self-compassion reframes it as a human imperfection, self-distancing helps you analyze and strategize. Self-distancing — through space, time, or language — shifts your perspective to a neutral observer who can replace distress with meaning.
Though regret has long been labeled a negative emotion, it has the power to instruct and clarify. As Pink says, regret doesn’t just make us human; it also makes us better.
Another thing you might come to regret?
Being an overly optimistic leader during times of change.
(Read: like right now, in this post-pandemic, pre-recession, and current economic climate).
In my latest Forbes article, I share why and five key findings from a recent change management study leaders should take to heart.
P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or caring for my post-Thanksgiving food baby, I’m a social media ghostwriter. (Yep, that’s a thing). I help founders craft their stories to communicate and connect better, magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.
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