Do you have some decisions or actions that you regret? Perhaps it's an action taken yesterday that you wish could be taken back. Or, perhaps you regret something you wished that you had done in the past. Is regret clearly a bad thing? Research by Colleen Saffrey, Amy Summerville, and Neal Roese suggests that people may actually have a favorable view of regret, and that it might serve a useful purpose for us. They write,
"People value their regret experience. They value it in both an absolute sense (the favorable aspects outweigh the unfavorable aspects) and in a relative sense (as compared to other commonly experienced negative emotions). This is a surprising finding given the assumption of the aversiveness of regret..."
Why might regret be a positive thing? The scholars argue that regret can be a mechanism for self-improvement. Experiencing regret might be part of the self-reflection process that leads to learning. As a result, we may come to avoid past behaviors that were not good for us or for others. Similarly, we might come to realize why certain actions should be taken, though we may have failed to take those actions in the past.
Consider for a moment the occasions during which you may have regretted an action or decision at work. Are you using those moments of regret to reflect, learn, and change?