The Power of Regret: Looking BACKWARD to Move FORWARD

May 8, 2024

The Power of Regret

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all found ourselves cringing at something dumb we’ve said or done, or maybe feeling a pang of sadness over the opportunities we didn’t seize — the career we didn’t pursue, the relationship we let slip through our  fingers. . .

Regrets can sneak up and sucker punch us when we least expect it.

It’s part of being a flawed human.

But what, if anything, can we learn from them? 

That’s what we’ll be exploring in this post. 

one man sitting in front of a clock regretting the past; another standing in the sunlight looking at a bright path ahead


Regret is a tricky customer; it masquerades as wisdom learned through hard experience .

But for most of us most of the time, it’s just a form of unproductive negativity that drags us down and PREVENTS growth. 

It’s like a dark cloud of “if onlys” blinding us from seeing the clear sky ahead.

HOWEVER, if we harness it correctly, we can grow from it and become wiser

But we’ll talk more about that in a minute. . .

4 Types of Regret

According to Daniel Pink, originator of the World Regret Survey (one of the largest samplings of attitudes on regret ever conducted with people in 105 countries) there are four core regrets:

1. FOUNDATION regrets about family, education or career

2. BOLDNESS regrets over not taking risks

3. MORAL regrets about hurting others

4. CONNECTION regrets around love and relationships

One of the interesting things he notes is that there really isn’t a great deal of difference between the types of regret the different cultural groups feel. 

Unsurprisingly, I guess, all humans seem to experience regret in a very similar way. 

Taking Action

Some level of regret over past mistakes is natural and even healthy — if it helps motivate positive change.

The problem comes when we wallow in regret, obsessing endlessly over what could have been instead of looking forward. 

One of the most prevalent things that Pinks has discovered is that as we get older — especially after we hit middle-age — we have more regrets about the fact that we didn’t take action on things when we could have done. 

 In other words, we regret what we DIDN’T DO more than what we DID do.

That in itself should be enough to spur us on and stop us getting lost in the labyrinth of lamenting things that have already happened (or not).

The Power of Regret

All too often, regret causes us to emotionally lean passively back into the past instead of stepping forward into the present and taking action.

It tricks us into believing the fantasy that if we had just made a different choice way back when, our lives would be perfect today.

But that’s just an illusion — there’s no way to know how things would have played out.

Every path has its own twists and turns. 

Everyone creates their own karma in every moment — and reaps the consequences in the future.

Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda. . .

Here’s the hard truth: life is hard and full of difficult situations that don’t always have perfect resolutions. 

And we ALL screw up sometimes.

What defines us is not the absence of mistakes, but how we respond to them.

Do we stay stuck in a shame spiral rehashing our regrets ad nauseam?

Or do we dust ourselves off, extract the lessons, and move forward with purpose?

The next time you catch yourself lost in the rabbit hole of obsessing over past blunders, pause and reality check yourself.


Is this really a productive use of my time and energy? Or am I just torturing myself over something I can no longer change?

If the answer is yes, you ARE just torturing yourself without any ability to change things, then consciously pivot your mind towards the present and FOCUS ON TAKING POSITIVE ACTION RIGHT NOW.

At the end of the day, the only thing any of us truly regret is the life we don’t end up living when we stay stuck in a cycle of shoulda-coulda-woulda.

Looking Backward Moves Us Forward

REAL personal growth comes when we reflect effectively on the past and put the lessons learned into our present actions

When we fully embrace this moment and shape it with intentions and actions that move us towards fulfilling our potential, we’re finally making the most of our lives and at the same time creating less potential for pointless regrets in the future.

I’ll finish with a quote from Daniel Pink:

And I agree: It DOES — as long as we do it the right way.


  1. temp mail

    Whoa, that blog style is awesome. For what duration have you been blogging? You made it look so easy. Overall, your website looks great, and the content is much better.

    • GoodBadKarma

      Thank you for stopping by — and for the positive feedback! Glad you’re enjoying what we share 🙂


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