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Can You Make Friends With Regret?

Hindsight – friend or foe, helpful or unhelpful? Hindsight is looking back on a situation with all the knowledge, experiences and information that's available to you now, that wasn't available or obvious to you in the past. It's when you're unhappy about an outcome and carrying regrets and dissatisfaction that, if only and should haves creep in, and the over-thinking and over-analyzing about how different information, and subsequently a different choice, could've changed things.

With hindsight you're reflecting with all the advantages contained within the present moment awareness and then speculating about how this new wisdom could've been or should've been applied.


The problem is that there's a tendency to paint the past with a different brush, a pattern called hindsight bias, also known as the, “I knew-it-all-along” effect, and it's this phenomenon that causes people to exaggerate the predictability of an event, after it's happened. This effect can be torturous, because the pain or disappointment you're facing now seems so avoidable.

The problem is that what seems so obvious or easy now, obviously, wasn't the obvious choice then. This thinking only adds another layer of pain and shame to the story. This type of bias, disregards many of the other factors in how or why you reached a certain conclusion, opened a specific door or walked that particular path. It disregards the most important thing- it wasn't obvious, or it wasn't possible or it was a huge stretch to make that choice, create that outcome, get that result. Now, in the present, from an aerial view, you're convinced you should've seen it or that you did see it and just didn't listen.

“It's so difficult, isn't it? To see what's going on when you're in the absolute middle of something? It's only with hindsight we can see things for what they are."~ S.J. Watson


Hindsight can be useful, but only when applied purposefully. Applying a reflective spirit to a current situation that you're unhappy with requires the willingness to embrace the discomfort, and to look back with non-judgement and compassion, lest you run the risk of staying stuck, missing the learning and feeling terrible about yourself.

Living from regret and focusing on what you perceive as wrong choices, missteps and poorly handled opportunities, is holding yourself hostage and frozen, and absolutely incapable of moving forward with confidence and ease.

Over the next couple of blogs, I'll explore how you can make friends with regret and avoid using hindsight as a form of torture. I'll share the skills to help empower you through the disappointing times, when things don't turn out as planned or as hoped, shifting you from wishing to wisdom, and from regret to reset.

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