By Steve Moran

According to Dan Pink’s newest book, The Power of Regret, one of the most popular tattoos people get — and then often regret — is …

No Regrets

He makes the point that even when we proclaim “No Regrets,” regrets are actually part of the human condition — and that our regrets can either crush us or make us better and stronger.

The Regret Problem

Regrets can be a significant problem in at least two ways:

  1. Lessons not learned: Many people have regrets about things they are doing, the way they are living their life. And yet, they continue to replay those actions, the very things they regret, because it has become a habit, making it easier than changing behavior. Some examples: overeating, not exercising, smoking, and drinking.
  2. Paralysis: Because regrets are so unpleasant, the thing that feels the safest, the least risky, is to do nothing, or to keep doing the same old thing, even though it is not working very well. While not leading to happiness, staying the course is predictable. And, most importantly, you already know you are capable of handling it.

If you are in one of these two states, this article is NOT for you.

Making Regrets Work for You

Start by asking these questions:

  1. How could the decision I now regret have turned out worse?
  2. What is something good that came out of the decision I made, the action I took?
  3. What did I learn from this experience that will help me be better, do better in the future?


A fascinating part of the research on regrets is that people who took risks have fewer regrets than those who learned no lessons or let paralysis dominate. Even when people took risks and failed, the research holds true.

I see senior living leaders who have great courage try new things, test new things. And they always, 100% of the time, end up with more success than those who don’t.

I see other leaders, in other organizations where turnover is high and occupancy is low, who persist with doing exactly the same thing, likely in the pursuit of avoiding the regret of failure. The problem is that it is not regret avoided, it is regret delayed.

And very often that delayed regret is more painful and more severe than could be imagined, with even less runway (or no runway) left to recover.