The proverbial Should-a Could-a Would-a’s.
Regret is a complex and multifaceted emotion that can significantly cloud not only our decision-making process but the happiness and joy we experience in our daily lives. At its core, regret is a feeling of disappointment or remorse over something we or someone else has done or failed to do. In the context of decision-making, regret can arise when we realize that we have made a suboptimal choice or missed the perfect opportunity. I call it the should-a could-a would-a’s rollercoaster ride.
What does that sound like? Here are a few examples:
“Well, if I would have known XX, then I could have done YY.”
“I guess I should have known better.”
“I am afraid to decide, what if I am wrong.”
Have you heard someone say, “You have a case of the shoulds?” or “Stop shoulding all over yourself.” There are memes about it, but we have yet to tackle these negative behavior patterns, so we can let them go and start to live a life of freedom and exchange. As a business owner, you are constantly asking yourself questions. Should I do this, Could I do that, Would I do this other thing? What if that happens, what will I do next? What are the consequences of doing or not doing any of them?
You try to plan and control every aspect of the day-to-day tasks to ensure a greater outcome, but ooooops, somehow your crystal ball was in the shop today and you missed something. Its like an addiction to always being right. Then almost immediately regret sets in for not making the right decision or executing the most perfect choice at that moment. Then your brain starts searching for the guilt and shame emotions or looking for the blame emotion to focus the attention on someone or something else. Even if “they” did not cause the problem, let’s blame “them” because blaming someone else sure feels better than guilt or worse, shame for knowing better, your brain says to itself.
Blaming the outside world, people, and situations outside of ourselves rather than looking inward is the crazy part. Yet we do this every moment of every day. It is a habit that you learned well. It is so ingrained in your decision-making thought process, that you do not even know it is happening. You are literally oblivious to it. Our parents and their parents have passed it down for generations. Some people have a greater dose of the regret gene than others, but believe me, it is a part of the human condition for everyone around the world. But if you embrace it rather than try to avoid it, you will find that it is what makes life worth living.
Regret can play a significant role in decision-making in several ways. One of the most significant is its impact on risk-taking behavior. Studies have shown that people who are more prone to regret are less likely to take risks, as they are more concerned about making a mistake or experiencing regret over a bad outcome. This can be both a positive and negative trait, as it can lead to more conservative decision-making that minimizes the risk of negative outcomes or the need to feel like you must control all of the outcomes in order to feel safe. But it can also limit possibilities and opportunities for growth and innovation.
Regret can also play a role in our assessment of decision outcomes. When we experience regret, we tend to overestimate the negative impact of our decision and focus more on what we could have done differently. This can lead us to second-guess our decisions and become overly cautious in the future, and we use it as an opportunity to beat ourselves up of the wrong decisions. On the other hand, if we do not experience regret when a decision turns out poorly, we may be more likely to repeat the same mistakes in the future.
Another way that regret can impact decision-making is through the phenomenon of “choice overload.” When we are faced with too many options or choices, we may experience decision paralysis and become unable to make a decision. Crippling fear is often due to a fear of making the wrong choice and experiencing regret. In such situations, it can be helpful to focus on the most important criteria for decision-making and eliminate options that do not meet those criteria.
Funny story, my mom used to ask everyone, and I mean everyone, what they would do if they were in her shoes. Of course, everyone, with the desire to help, would tell her what they would do regarding that situation. But then, she would do none of them. In fact, she would sit back and just watch it unfold. I asked her, Mom, why do you ask for everyone’s opinion but then not take any of their advice? She said, I just wanted to see what they would say. Some of them had some great advice too! But because of her choice overload, she could not make a decision. She feared that any decision that she made would be the wrong one. So rather than risk being wrong, she missed the opportunities to be right too. She faced some real challenges in her life because of her fears of future regret.
Finally, regret can also impact our motivation to make decisions. When we experience regret over a past decision, we may become hesitant to make future decisions for fear of making the same mistake. This can lead to decision avoidance or procrastination, which can ultimately harm our business or personal life. This fear of making the wrong choice often holds us back and keeps us from moving forward. To better cope with it, you can focus on the lessons learned from past regrets and use them to inform future decision-making. Rather than allowing regret to paralyze you, you can embrace the suck and choose better next time.
Regret is a natural feeling that arises when we realize that we could have done something differently or better. As a business owner, I know that regret can be a powerful and sometimes debilitating emotion. Over the years, I have experienced a fair share of regrets, and I have come to realize that it is an inevitable part of running a business or being an entrepreneur.
I have heard countless stories from business owners, you have probably heard them too. These may even sound familiar to you:
“The first time I experienced regret was when I missed a critical deadline for a major project. I had not properly planned and managed my time, and as a result, the project was delayed by several weeks. This delay had a significant impact on our business, and we lost a lot of revenue as a result. I regretted not being more organized and focused, and I learned the hard way that time management is crucial in running a successful business.”
Another one, “I regret not investing enough in marketing and advertising. For a long time, I believed that word-of-mouth advertising was enough to keep our business growing. However, as competition increased and our business grew, we began to realize that we needed to invest more in advertising and marketing. I regretted not making this decision sooner, as we could have grown our business much faster had we done so.”
And another one, “One of my biggest regrets is not hiring the right people. Early on in our business, we hired a lot of people based solely on their technical skills, without considering their fit with our company culture. As a result, we had a lot of turnovers and lost some valuable employees. I regret not being more diligent in the hiring process and not prioritizing culture fit over technical skills.”
And yet another one, “I regret not being more innovative and adaptable. In today’s fast-paced business environment, it is crucial to be constantly innovating and adapting to changing market conditions. However, I have found that it is easy to get complacent and stuck in old ways of doing things. I regret not being more open to change and not taking more risks in trying new things.”
Or moreover, the honesty we have with ourselves about our regrets on our deathbed. Nearly 90% of the people in hospice feel the need to make amends for the regrets they had in their lifetimes. Ninety percent, NINETY PERCENT! They confess that they wish they had more time and would have, could have, or should have done something different. Here are the top few regrets…
Not spending enough time with loved ones: Many people express regret over not spending enough time with their family, friends, or loved ones. They wish they had taken more time to create meaningful relationships and connect with the people who mattered most to them.
Not following their dreams: People often regret not pursuing their dreams or passions. They wish they had taken more risks and followed their hearts instead of playing it safe and settling for what was expected of them.
Not expressing their feelings: People regret not expressing their feelings enough, whether it’s telling someone they love them or apologizing for past mistakes. They wish they had been more open and honest with the people in their lives.
Working too much: Many people regret spending too much time at work or focusing too much on their careers. They wish they had balanced their work and personal lives better and made more time for the things they enjoyed outside of work.
Not traveling enough: People often regret not traveling more and experiencing different cultures and parts of the world. They wish they had taken more opportunities to explore and broaden their horizons.
Not taking care of their health: People may regret not taking better care of their physical and mental health. They wish they had made healthier choices and prioritized self-care.
Not forgiving others: People may regret holding grudges or not forgiving others for past wrongs. They wish they had let go of anger and bitterness and focused on forgiveness and compassion.
Despite these regrets, very few have come to realize that having regrets are not necessarily a negative experience. Regret can be a powerful motivator to learn from our mistakes and improve ourselves as business owners and people. It is important to acknowledge and reflect on our regrets, not to wallow in them or use them as an opportunity to beat ourselves up. It can be equally advantageous to take action to change what we are doing so we can have the life we deserve. Certainly, when the rest of your life’s happiness and joy depends on how you respond to regrets, you will make different choices.
You can try to prevent regrets by having a clear vision and plan for your future. But you cannot avoid them altogether. Regrets and mistakes are a part of the human experience. There will always be missed opportunities. Sometimes the only choice is a bad one; a choice between two not-to-positive alternatives, so you pick the best one and be okay with your choice. How you respond to those missed opportunities, good or bad, is what makes life worth living. So, if you do not have any regrets, I would say you are playing it too safe. Go out, take a risk, make some mistakes, and have a few regrets. Your regret, in the end, maybe that you regret not taking more chances or believing in yourself more. To have to plan for every little detail to avoid regrets or making a mistake is harder in the long run. And frankly, that is not as much fun to be around.
I have read so many books on strategies to prevent the unpreventable. There is no such thing as a perfect anything or the “right” people. And I acknowledge that you do not need to throw caution to the wind. To have no regrets means to make no mistakes, which we both know is impossible. Plus, where is the fun in that?
“Surround ourselves with the right people, only hire the right employees, and build a network of insightful mentors.” Blah Blah Blah. That is what society wants you to believe. Strive for perfection and do not let anyone see your mistakes. “It’s embarrassing.” That perspective creates a space for judging people and situations incorrectly. You should have a diverse group of perspectives, to make more informed decisions but you will never find enough “right” to avoid regrets related to the unforeseeable. People will always disappoint you in these instances. Which is why there are so many legal battles and divorces in the US. Legal battles are not happening because people are doing the right things. They happen because of disappointment from somewhere. Then you get to take the pressure and focus off yourself and put the blame on someone or something else.
So how do you get off the regret rollercoaster ride? Take a stand and find a place to start and go from there. It is more important to be open, stay flexible, and adaptable as a business owner. This means being open to change and willing to take risks. It also means being able to pivot quickly in response to changing market conditions or unexpected challenges. Or realizing when it is time to let go of something, like your business. By staying nimble and flexible, you are not avoiding anything, you are seizing the opportunities to take action or to powerfully choose something different. That is where the power belongs, and it is the key to where abundant living begins both as a business owner and as a human.
When you are trying to avoid something, as we mentioned above, it causes you to make decisions differently. But if you approach it as a positive, you can accept you are an imperfect person. You do not have to choose the “right thing” every time. And when you don’t, let yourself off the hook and stop beating yourself up about every little thing you cannot control. Simply acknowledge, you had an experience and you learned from it. Trust me, if you learned the lesson, you would not have to learn it again. If you do not, it will come back around bigger and stronger than before until you get it. That is the magic of living a life well lived.
The most successful business owners understand this concept and they have adopted the philosophy of failing fast. Try something and see how it goes. Learn from it and try it again. With every round of trying and failing, something new is learned. New doors begin to open and new opportunities you didn’t see coming start to show up. Repeat the process until you find the path to achieve your goals. It is just like a baby learning to walk. They must learn to crawl first by exercising the muscles that are weak. They keep trying until one day they take their first steps. Every human started out the same way, but we forgot the simplicity of walking before you run and how many mistakes we had to make along the way. We expect that business owners have all the answers and that they make all of the right decisions all of the time. It is simply not true. So let yourself off the hook.
In summary, regret and making mistakes are a natural part of being a business owner and an effect of the human condition. It is a powerful emotion that can significantly affect our decision-making processes. It can impact our risk-taking behavior, our judgment, our assessment of decisions/outcomes, our motivation to make decisions, and even our fear to make decisions in the first place. However, by acknowledging and learning from past regrets, we can use them to inform our future decisions and ultimately become better decision-makers, better risk-takers, and better people.
It’s time to embrace your mistakes and recognize there is nothing to regret. You made a choice and there was a wanted or unwanted outcome. When you intimately know this, It is only then that the doors open to experiencing the emotions of compassion and unconditional love for not only others but yourself as well. You can use this emotion to catapult you to the next level rather than being used by it. Either way, the choice is yours. No regrets!