My friend Kathryn Schulz, who penned the excellent book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error and who is, in my opinion, one of the finest, bravest, most thoughtful journalists working today, recently gave a TED talk about regret. As the new owner of ink that makes me very happy, what got me to pay even closer attention was Kathryn's extended example of her own tattoo as a lens for examining the psychology of regret, a vehicle for her characteristically potent formula of universal wisdom channelled through personal anecdotes and hard data.
Make sure you watch to the very end. It's well worth it.
If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don't want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn't to live without any regrets, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them.... We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn't remind us that we did badly -- it reminds us that we know we can do better.
For a related TED treat on imperfection and vulnerability, don't miss Brené Brown's wonderful talk on wholeheartedness, then add some of these essential books on the psychology of happiness to your reading list.
This post also appears on Brain Pickings, an Atlantic partner site.