I’m blogging every day in May, for no particular reason other than I can. I’ve come up with 31 topics and I’m going to bash on my keyboard about each of them. If you enjoy them then you’re welcome; if you don’t, then why are you still here?

Regrets are tricky things, and yet another symptom of why if humans were a computer there’d be a desperate need to get a software update out sharpish.

Every day I make thousands of decisions – take the next breath, do or don’t make that tube train that’s doors are about to close, which cake to have – and that’s bloody hard work, but I’m also – according to this pre-prepared and almost randomly picked blog title – supposed to wish I hadn’t done some of those things.

Looking back and having regrets is looking back and making the decision that ‘my gosh I’m terrible at decisions.’ So what a silly idea that is, given who’s making the decision.

I’m certain that 99% of the decisions I make each day, right or wrong, don’t matter. They don’t really influence anything, and I can turn back on them if they do – because no one minds, and it doesn’t really matter.

Then there’s the 1%. They do matter, and perhaps they can’t be reversed too. They’re tricky because I find that whenever I make them I automatically, eventually, default to thinking they were the wrong ones. The outcome that hasn’t happened is always preferable, and I can’t be alone in that.

Working in Communications, my work life is full of instant regret for the alternative. Almost everything I do is a case of using my judgment (honed, but not perfect), guiding and advising people to deal with things which are predictably unpredictable.

Every media comment, every recommendation, every briefing. What if I’d done it like that instead, it’d have been better right?

The problem is that without regret, who would be challenging my guidance? The people reaching out to me for help are less likely to do it ‘in the heat’ when in a world full of questions I’m (seemingly) the one with the answer.

Regrets are an essential part of my life; a useful challenge against my own decision making, but a dangerous force which must not be allowed to take over.

Stopping them, rather than repressing them, in the right way is important.

Regrets aren’t there to be ignored, muted or drowned out but to be learned from. A honed, defined way of turning regrets into learning for next time is an important arsenal in the toolbox of a resilient person, and one I’ve got my own techniques to achieve.

After a tough challenge at work last week where I’ve been criticised for some of what I’ve done, I’m hard at work thinking about how best to get some learning out of what went wrong rather than just regretting it.

A list of could’ve-s? A conversation with more experienced professionals, either as part of something formal or just over a pint? A chat with the people involved?

Whatever form it takes – a clear idea of “next time I will” (even if that’s “do the same”) is important for me, so that by this time next week I’m back to je ne regrette rien.

Photo credit: Shocking W. via Foter.com / CC BY

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