Yes. The answer is always yes. For better of worse, you could always have done differently. But that's not what matters, is it?
What matters is can you DO differently? Can you transform regret into a signal to do better next time?
The answer to those questions is also always a resounding YES! And I’m going to explain how to do just that.
What Could I Have Done Differently?
This question often leads to an answer of regret. Most people end up responding, “Oh man, I messed up! I should have done X. Why didn’t I do Y? Z should’ve been so obvious! I’m so stupid!”
No, no, no, no, no! That’s not what I want you to do when you ask yourself this question. Don’t come at it from that perspective.
Don’t focus on the regret when you can focus on the lesson.
But how do we do that, Devon, when the shoulda-woulda-coulda’s are staring us in the face? How can we not ask that question and feel regret?
Well, let’s start by rephrasing the question.
Instead of: “What could I have done differently?”
Ask Yourself: “What would I have done differently had I known then what I know now?”
You didn’t know then what you know now, so take it easy on yourself. Reframing the question in this way takes the focus off the action and helps you focus on the lesson.
Trust me, every regret contains a lesson, no matter how big or small, that you can apply to your life. It contains a lesson that you can turn into a signal to help direct you in the future.
Transform Regret Into a Signal
Whenever I start to feel regret, I examine my regret to find a signal. A signal that will flash in any similar situation in the future, warning me to not repeat my mistakes. Warning me to apply the lessons I have learned.
Let me give you a lighthearted example of how transforming regret into a signal works. I’m going to take you back to my college days when I was extra prone to making mistakes and collecting regrets on the regular.
I Had Dance Moves... But No Game!
If you didn’t know already, I love to dance! My crew and I used to hit the clubs almost every night of the week in my college years. I was very confident on the dance floor… yet not so much with the ladies.
I would go to the club, show off my dance skills, and sometimes a cute girl would come up and be like, “Hey Devon, you’re a really good dancer.”
And I’d be like, “Thanks, you’re pretty.” Then I’d run away.
That’s what I did more times than I’d like to admit. And every night, I’d regret running away and not talking to the girl.
Finally, one night while I was sulking in regret, I realized that my regret contained a signal. A signal I could use next time I was admired on the dance floor by a girl I found attractive.
That signal was “you’re a good dancer.”
I realized that I could prepare a better response than “Thanks, you’re pretty.” I could prepare a response that led to a conversation and kept me from running away like a prepubescent boy. I could prevent regret from hitting me again!
My Regret: Girl would say I was a good dancer, I'd say thank you and then run away.
Signal: "You're a good dancer."
Future Response: "Thank you. Do you like to dance?"
The very next night, I hit the dance floor and did my thing, anxious to try out my new strategy. Lo and behold, this cute girl came up and she gave me the signal, “You’re a great dancer!”
I choked down my reflexive response, planted my feet in place, took a breath, and said, “Thanks! Do you like to dance?” And that led to a conversation, which led to dancing, which led to me getting her phone number.
Do you see how that works? You can take a regret, turn it into a signal, and use it to trigger a better response next time.
Ask, Examine, and Forgive
So, don’t be afraid to ask the question, “Could I have done differently?” but be prepared to examine your regret. Be prepared to examine what happened and pinpoint where things went wrong. Then, identify a signal just before that point that you can use in the future.
Depending on the severity of your regret, there is another step that can be vitally important: forgiveness. You’ve got to cut yourself some slack and forgive yourself.
Even if you knew better and didn’t do better...
you’re still human!
Regretting your actions isn’t going to change anything in the past, but forgiving yourself and learning from that regret can help in the present and the future. It can even help repair the consequences that you’re still dealing with.
Take the time you need to learn How to Forgive and Let Go so you can move forward.
Let Regret Direct You
Don’t get lost in regret.
Don’t get lost in an endless loop of shoulda-woulda-couldas. Remind yourself that you’re human. Remind yourself that you didn’t know then what you know now. Remind yourself that dwelling on regret only leads to regretting that you dwelled on regret.
Let regret direct you instead. Keep moving forward with “I shall, I will, and I can” use what I have learned from past mistakes.
If you do, your relationship with regret will begin to change from toxic to healthy and even rewarding. And you’ll find yourself in a far better place than you imagined.
Journey of Personal Growth
Personal growth is a lifelong journey. I’ve made it my mission in life to gather and apply as much wisdom as I can and help others do the same. To go on a journey of personal growth, I encourage you to join my Facebook Group and Subscribe to my YouTube Channel.
Whatever nuggets of wisdom I find, I will share with you! And I hope you’ll share whatever wisdom you have to offer on our Facebook Group.