4 powerful ways to transform regret into a force for good in our lives

  “To live without regret is to believe we have nothing to learn, no amends to make and no opportunity to be braver with our lives.” Brené Brown

Have you ever had any regrets?

In going back over your life, are there things you wish you had done differently?

I certainly have! What’s more, there are things I wished I had done and just couldn’t find the courage to do.

Do you know regret is one of the most uncomfortable emotions we can have?

But the thing is, we can discover the power of having regrets and how we can embrace it to create a happier, more meaningful life.

Some people say they have no regrets and they are always looking forward. Personally, I think we all have some regrets at times, whether we want to face them or not.

Others do the opposite and end up ruminating on their feelings of regret, going around and round in circles, stuck in their head and blaming themselves. Sound familiar?

So, here are 4 ways we can turn our feelings of regret into a force for good in our lives.

1) Get into the habit of reflection.

I believe in the power of reflecting and learning from past mistakes. As they say, failure is the best teacher!  

By reflecting on your regrets, you are forced to do some deep thinking about what you did or didn’t do and what you learned from it. It isn’t easy and feelings of guilt and self-blame may arise.

In her latest book, Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown, a well-known researcher and author, says the ability to precisely name feelings is a crucial skill, especially now in this increasingly complex and fraught world.

According to Brown, the idea of no regrets doesn’t mean living with courage, it means living without reflection.

I am a great supporter of personal reflective writing and how doing this on a regular basis can truly enhance your life.

Getting into the habit of writing in a journal regularly can be cathartic and a great tool for growth and development of wisdom. It’s like having a one-on-one conversation with yourself.

When you have regrets and are heading down the path of rumination, write about your feelings each day for a number of days in a row.

Research shows that when we write about our negative experiences it can make us feel better. We feel as through a burden has been lifted and we can make more sense of them.

2) Become our own best friend.

Rather than blaming ourselves when we have regrets, it is better to meet regret with self-compassion.

We are all human and we all have times of suffering. Being more sympathetic and caring to ourselves can make all the difference in how we feel.

Look at any feelings of regret with kindness and curiosity and as an opportunity for growth.

We are quick to blame ourselves when things go wrong or we feel bad about what we have done. We can be so cruel to ourselves.  

The idea here is to in fact do the opposite, be our own best friend! By leaving the inner critic behind, we can forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes and grow from it.

3) Revisit our values.

Your values describe how you want to behave as a person and act in all situations throughout your life. They are how you want to treat yourself and others. They are like a compass, giving guidance and direction.

Values are in essence how you are true to yourself. They define your individual personality and make you feel authentic and engaged in life.

Values can be called on at any time, in any circumstance in life, even when we are hooked by never-ending thoughts and difficult emotions.

When we have regrets, it’s often is a reminder to us what it is we value in life. Regularly reminding ourselves of the values we want to live our life by, helps us make decisions in alignment with those values.

Often, our regrets can be about actions we took or didn’t take that were in conflict with our values.

4) Become more emotionally agile.

Having emotional agility means we can process, navigate and be comfortable with the full range, both positive and negative, of our emotions.

Having difficult emotions is part of the human experience. For our life to be meaningful in any way, it means there are times of stress and pain. Labelling our feelings accurately helps us understand that they are temporary and will pass.

Emotionally agile people are good at dealing with their inner world of emotions and can mindfully engage with them. They own their emotions; their emotions don’t own them.

When we can look at our feelings of regret from a distance, be more mindful and accepting of them, we can see the problem from a different perspective and respond with a more open attitude. Regret is one of the most uncomfortable emotions we can have.

Facing difficult and uncomfortable emotions, reflecting and learning from them, helps us to be more resilient and thrive in this tumultuous world.

 To learn more about the power of regrets to enhance our lives, click here to access my video How to turn regret into a positive force. 

To finish off, regret is a powerful reminder that reflection, change and growth are necessary for us to live a happier, more meaningful life.

As Daniel Pink says in his bestselling book, The Power of Regrets: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, “Regret makes us human and regret makes us better.”


Jeanette Brown

I have been in Education as a teacher, career coach and executive manager over many years.
I'm also an experienced coach who is passionate about supporting people in finding real meaning and purpose in their lives, building a resilient, grounded inner self and achieving their desired goals.

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