Why ‘no regrets’ might not be such a good thing

Over the years, singers from Edith Piaf to The Walker Brothers to Robbie Williams have sung to us about having ‘no regrets’. The message seems to be ‘pick yourself up, shake yourself down and move on’. I think if we do that without going through the process of regret, we might be missing out.


In a coaching session, Carrie (not her real name, but this story is shared with her permission) told me about a difficult experience she’d had at work.

‘… but, anyway,’ she continued, ‘that’s all over now. I’m done with it. Forget about it. It’s history. No regrets, eh? I don’t even know why I’m talking about it.’

‘I’m curious – is it really done and dusted?’ I asked. ‘It seems like maybe there’s a part of you that’s still in that situation. Would it help to explore that a bit more? Do you really have no regrets?’

‘Well …. yeah, I guess I do. I feel like I shouldn’t but I do. I know I’m supposed to just move on but there is a sense of regret and it’s bugging me, however much I try to ignore it,’ Carrie sighed. ‘Can we talk about it some more?’

And so we set aside her agenda and worked through what those feelings of regret were and what they meant. Carrie came up with three lessons the regret had taught her:

I’m only human and so are those I work with

Carrie acknowledged that she had played a part in the difficult situation as well as the others involved. She recognised that everyone has their own stresses and concerns and that life doesn’t always run smoothly. Moving on from that, she realised that:

I need to forgive myself and others

Carrie understood that one of the reasons she was feeling regret is that she hadn’t forgiven herself for the way the work situation had panned out, or for that matter, forgiven a couple of other people for the role she felt they had played. She determined to seek them out, acknowledge that it had been an uncomfortable experience for them all and clear the air. One of the ways in which she felt she could forgive herself was to ask:

What will I do differently next time?

Carrie took responsibility for her words and actions and we talked about how she would handle a similar situation in future. By doing so, she had a plan which will hopefully have a very different outcome, should it be necessary.

By acknowledging her regrets and exploring what was behind them, Carrie was able to set them down and make progress.

Today’s pebble for your consideration: if you are feeling regret over something that has (or hasn’t) happened, what is that regret telling you? How can you acknowledge and learn from it? 

Any thoughts?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?






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