The Empowering Regret

The Empowering Regret

“The Power of Regret. This is another interesting book from Dan Pink.” I waved a copy of the book to draw Lulu’s attention.

“Must be a useful book for a septuagenarian like you. At your age you will have accumulated several regrets.” Lulu, my parrot, never misses a chance for taking a dig at me.

“Oh, shut up, Lulu.”

“Don’t frown at me. Do you know, people regret lost connections?”

“Yes, connection regrets are the largest category in the four core regrets. Some friendships are lost because of disagreements, some friendships just wither away.

“I wonder if Will Smith and Chris Rock were friends.”

“And I also wonder if they really regret their deeds. So much in the show business is done for the right ‘optics, as they call it.”

“Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s (Will Smith’s wife) medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” Will wrote in his apology to Chris Rock. He signed off, “I am a work in progress.”

“That’s the point. We are all work in progress, so we will commit regrettable mistakes. Sometimes on the spur of the moment, and on rare occasions, deliberately.”

“More than ‘connection’ regrets, I think ‘moral’ regrets hit hard. Vijay Tendulkar, the renowned playwright reveals the shocking true story of an old man, who was a leader and a public figure, but a man of principles. The old leader was ailing when he wanted to see a certain woman young enough to be his daughter. He apologized to her for harbouring ‘wrong thoughts’ about her which she was unaware of. He asked her to forgive him so that he can die in peace.”

“That’s a strange story. He considered her ‘desirable’ and regretted it! And it was only in the mind!! Oh, my…. And there are scores of rapists who serve their jail term without a tear of regret. What a story!”

“I know of a person who had a fling with a woman outside the wedlock. And he regrets it. Suresh Hundre knowingly evaded tax, and regretted it. Moral regrets are difficult to bear. Like a rodent, they gnaw at your conscience. Tell me, what is your regret?”

“Hmmm ….. I deeply regret not learning classical music. I thought of learning when I was thirty, but I could not handle my job and hobby simultaneously.”

“That’s not true. It was a half-hearted attempt. You thought you were too old to learn music. Is this what Pink calls the ‘foundation regret?’”

“Yes, Lulu. The difficulty is that I can’t get lost time. This will stay with me forever.”

“But you can only blame yourself. Inaction it was, on your part.”

“Boldness regrets is another category. It is more about inaction than action. Like not asking ‘her’ out…. “

“Now, this is turning so autobiographical”

“Shut up, Lulu.”

“Ha, ha. People get tongue-tied at some critical moments. Sometimes it is speaking to someone on the death bed. The Australian nurse who surveyed what people-on-death-bed really regret puts some of their regrets in this category.

“Dan Pink’s research findings are not very different on this matter.”

“Regrets serve a major purpose. When people reflect asking themselves ‘Why they feel what they are feeling at the moment’ they gain understanding of what worked against them.”

“This is true. When someone goofs up an important presentation the immediate tendency is to find fault with others. But when the person returns to his office, and reflects, as you say, on the question ‘why I feel what I am feeling at the moment’, he realizes not done enough home work. Or he failed to understand the expectations of the audience.”

“And such a thought impacts behaviour. We can see that the person will not make the same mistake again. Suresh Hundre created a great organization which follows high ethical standard. That’s the result of his reflection and decision. Speaking of it, I remember you too had a similar experience and resolve.”

“Ha, ha. Yes, Lulu. I was a young manager then in my early twenties when I was bullied by another manager. He insisted that I take a certain action which really was against my conscience. I had sleepless nights, and I resolved that never gain I will allow anyone to bully me to do an action which is unconscionable. And I never did allow anyone.”

“Oh, you were always a difficult man to handle! As Will Smith pointed out ‘We are work in progress.’ And what you do with your regret matters, it lessens the sharpness of regret. Making resolve like you did is one important way. Making clean breast of your stupid behaviour can be another way – I know people who did it after an extra marital affair. They may not have got rid of the regret and guilt completely, but it is less painful.”

“I agree. Disclosure is the thing. People place inordinate emphasis on feedback, but not enough on disclosure; it plays an important role in one’s development.”

“Yup! Regrets don’t change what has happened, but learning from it will change your life positively. That’s the power of regret. But I know what’s on your mind.”

“Oh Lulu! Now you are going to attribute motive ….”

“You just wish to listen to others’ regrets like Amitabh Bachchan listened to Parveen Babi in ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’!”

We broke out in laughter. Lulu jumps and settles on my shoulder when he is in a good mood, and he did.

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” / Read more Lulu blogs in my book ‘The Lulu Duologues’/ Feature pic by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash