What do you regret?

Dyana ValentineWhat do you regret in your business dealings? How has the experience affected your life and your work? That’s the question I’m tackling today. (Scroll down for the video.)

I rarely use the word regret. Not because I’ve never felt it—but because it’s a complex of feelings, not simply regret. I may feel guilty or wish something had gone differently. If I feel guilty, it’s usually because I infringed on someone else’s values. If I regret something, it is usually rooted in not keeping a promise to myself or because I didn’t follow through on something I truly, deeply, wanted to do.

Ask yourself if what you are feeling really regret? Check out a great article by Melissa McFarlane on the distinctions between regret and guilt on the Electric Kites website.

So, now that we have looked a bit closer at clarifying the meaning and impact of regret, what do we do next? Right now is as good a time as any to take an inventory of our experiences. Here are a couple of mine:

  • I regret staying at a job years longer than I should have. I didn’t know if I would be okay on the other side. I played the, “Why am I giving up a real job?” song. I didn’t have the experience to know I’d be fine. (In fact, I’m much better on the other side.) It was a matter of bravery. Though I wouldn’t have guessed that my life would look like it does now—I trust that not knowing all the pieces is okay. There are other versions of me out there and I’m open to them. It’s a more forgiving existence now that I know I’m making it up as I go along.
  • I regret staying with a project too long. Sometimes projects seem right up my alley and I get so excited. I go along with it even when 50% through it I have a pit in my stomach and my intuition is telling me to get out of it but it feels too late and I have to see it through. There’s a lot of learning that happens from pushing through, but really, I regret not pulling out of something that ultimately didn’t make any sense for me to follow through. The emotional rent was too high.
  • I regret choosing ego over fiscal intelligence. I was invited to participate in a prestigious trade show, an excellent opportunity from a marketing perspective. But after all was said and done, it was not worth the $25K investment. I wish I had thought it through first, because I would have realized that the bet was not going to go my way.
  • My biggest regret was trying to start a company with a partner rather than striking out on my own. Maybe misery loves company? I’m bummed that I didn’t do it on my own and just hire him as an employee, because that’s what he was. I tried to give him more responsibility in the hopes that he would step up to the plate, but it never happened.

Regrets from Dyana Valentine on Vimeo.

Now, what to do about it? Take action! Choose a meaningful next step from my “3 Rs of Regret”:

Repair: Maybe it feels better just saying your regret out loud. Go one further and make good on a promise you didn’t keep or an action that went awry.

Regroup: Apologize to yourself. Give yourself a do-over. Right now.

Reframe: Make a commitment to learn this time, and act accordingly when a similar situation comes up the next time. Figure out if it’s your values that are getting in the way or someone else’s. What is one sign you can see earlier on the next go?

I would like to open this up to a wider conversation, so please leave your stories in the comments. What do you regret? How has it affected your work/life balance?

14 thoughts on “What do you regret?

  1. Kat Jaibur (@katjaib)

    I’m not a huge fan of “regret” either. But it is a good teacher (as long as we use it to move forward).

    My biggest regrets are these:
    I regret not listening to my gut.
    I regret not pushing back on the boss who promoted me without sharing power (so I got all of the accountability and none of the authority).
    I regret not honoring my real self, my real wishes and desires. (I didn’t want that title or the 70-hr weeks that went with it.)
    I regret thinking I wasn’t good enough.
    I regret holding back on my talents and abilities.
    I regret thinking it was all up to me, and forgetting that help often comes in unexpected ways from unexpected places.
    I regret my perfectionism, which still gets in the way sooooo much.
    I regret not speaking my voice, truly.
    I regret thinking everybody else is doing it better, smarter and is more entitled
    I regret not having my website up… still… and thinking if I’m really honest about how I work and what I believe in, people will run away.
    I regret giving so much power to my inner critic.
    Yeah.

    1. Dyana Valentine

      wow, Kat! YES, regret and guilt are excellent guides. I got caught up in a 70-hour week as a status symbol. It seemed something to be proud of or “grown up” at the time. I can’ t WAIT to see/hear what you want to put up on your website and find out what might scare people. That inner mean girl is a doozy. Give her a name and invite her OUT of the driver’s seat–even for today. Report back and leave your site address when it’s up!

  2. Jo Anne Carr

    Wow, that was a great article Dyana. Like you I too regret certain choices in employment because it was safer or easier. Especially, my last place of environment I wanted to have everything “together” before I stepped out on my own. And by doing so I impeded my own professional development by sticking with a job that didn’t value me as an employee.

    1. Dyana Valentine

      thank you, Jo Anne. The stories above are from a selection of readers, fyi. I share your regret of choosing the “safe” route (which rarely was for me). It’s amazing how much less dangerous it is to stretch and step out–looking back, I find that the more we value ourselves, the easier it is for others to do the same, right?

  3. Nils Geylen

    When I read ‘choosing ego over fiscal intelligence’ I thought: yes, that’s it.

    Turned out it is entirely the opposite for me. I’m too arrogant, too picky, too discriminatory perhaps and I should choose food on the table maybe over my intense desire to only take on jobs I believe in. Hard call.

    That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this post (and new blog to me).

    PS how will I know about follow-up comments? No subscribe?

    1. Dyana Valentine

      Dear Nils: thank you for the great comment (let us know if you don’t get this re;ply via e-mail). I’m with you–stay strong in your conviction to take the jobs that mean the most to you–perhaps you can integrate that into your marketing language. It may help you find more of what you want. For me, anytime there’s a “should” it usually means it’s a NO. Trust yourself.

  4. heather parlato

    i’ve thought a lot about things i could have done differently, and when i analyze them, they almost all come down to 2 things: acting on fear instead of taking time to connect with confidence [which is mostly a business thing for me] and writing some people or situations off prematurely instead of foregoing judgment until i know the people or situations better [more often personal].

    fear and doubt, no matter how small the amount, are a sure way to open the door to regretful decisions. for every one i’ve made, i can also trace an action i took where i compromised myself or my values in hopes of some beneficial trade off. confidence doesn’t necessarily quell the nagging voices asking “what if,” but it allows me to know i’m not starting a relationship on a false premise outside my value system.

    my regret about judgments might sound like i’m an intensely judgmental person, and that’s not what i mean to say. it’s more that i think my brain wants to categorize people and things, which tricks me into thinking i know more than i do. it’s limiting. perception of people changes the more you know them, and for me, the only way to compassion is seeing people as big, complicated pictures rather than a set of facts, actions & attributes. so, i try for that, and i think about the people i’ve given extra time to, and how different they are to me now than when i thought of them differently based on a few meetings.

    1. Dyana Valentine

      Heather: beautiful comments! I really love how deeply considerate you are about your own process and especially seeking to resonate with your values. I wonder what it would be like if we all gave ourselves permission to be intensely judgmental (for good)? I appreciate that you have given yourself the space/time to allow for relationships to grow–perhaps another clue to a value here? Keep being you and keep that bar high.

  5. Genevieve

    Great piece, Dyana, and a meaty subject. As a rule, I don’t like regret and generally avoid it. Life is a journey and as you say, the best thing we can do is learn from the parts that we didn’t manage as best as we could. In the instances when I’ve done something that I – when forced to admit it – do actually regret, I prefer to think of these moments as teachers. Those things I’ve done that might otherwise haunt me and hurt me, the ones my subconscious keeps reminding me of (wince) – I choose to think that my subconscious is a smart and important part of me, and is just trying to remind the rest of me that I should keep my eye out for similar situations in the future – and next time, handle them better.

  6. Dyana Valentine

    absolutely right on, Genevieve! I think that those undercurrents of righteousness can live on a spectrum–from saboteur (wince factor) to super wise guide. I like the framing you describe of this cycling as a journey–a series of opportunities to learn, grow and shift. Gorgeous. Thank you.

  7. Maggie O

    There is so much of “me” regrets in the comments. I do regret not being true to myself and following a career ( I did like it at the time) giving it my all at great expense in energy and time. After some serious surgery, just when I was hitting the high notes of my career, I had 2 years to get myself back on my feet ,off the drugs (painkillers) and find out who I am and what I want to do. My choice is quite different from the first go round. Went back to college and followed my talents…”A” grades followed and now I need to figure how to sell myself and my own business. With everything else in my life I have said “no regrets”and so far that has worked out well.

    1. Dyana Valentine

      Dear Maggie: thank you so much for taking the time to share your story–I’m SO glad you made it through and rocked school. I’m here for you on the fewer regrets train and would love to hear what your new biz is. Keep it clean and clear (the energy) and let us know where to find your new venture online.

  8. Simone

    I’m really loving what I am reading so far on here 🙂

    I used to have regrets, but now I see choices I have made and what I can learn from them. If something doesn’t work out the way I imagined or hoped for, then now I say well what can I learn from the experience and I also say, “well it wasn’t meant to be”.

    All the regrets I have had, I’ve decided to try and rectify them in future situations. So for example Kat above said “she regretted not listening to her gut”. I’ve had that too, so the next time a similar situation arose, “I listened to my gut”, or “I regret holding back on my talents and abilities.” So the next time, I decided to use my talents and abilities and see how I can change the situation.

    Of course I still have regrets, but those regrets are short lived, because I can always change the regrets into something that I can grow from 🙂

    Just wanted to say Dyana I really resonated with your personality. When I watched your videos, it was like, “oh I like this lady, she’s on my wavelength” 🙂

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