Follow the breadcrumbs
To a life with no regrets (sorta)
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Do you remember Hansel & Gretel - the fairytale? How their father takes them into the woods to abandon them (what the heck?) + the children (little smarty pants) left crumbs of bread along the way so they could find their way home?
I can’t remember what happened next, but I use the phrase ‘follow the breadcrumbs’ a lot. When I say it, I am not referring to ‘leaving a trail’, but rather - following that spark of curiosity that gets you interested in something. You find a little ‘crumb’ + you follow it until you find the next one.
I think of it as a ‘forward’ movement in a new direction rather than a backward motion finding your way home. But, now that I think about it, maybe ‘moving forward’ IS finding your way home. How’s that for a deep thought?
INTO THE WOODS
Do you remember last week, we talked about death + I shared some resources for living without regrets - including a link to Daniel Pink’s new book The Power of Regret? I hadn’t read it yet, but I had read several articles referencing this book so I shared it with you because it was on my radar + tied in so well with the topic.
Well, you can imagine my surprise when I got an email a few days ago inviting me to attend a ‘meet the author’ event with guess who? Yep, Daniel Pink.
That’s a breadcrumb I HAD to follow.
The organizer of the event hadn’t hosted an event for over two years due to COVID. So, getting this random invitation + it being the book I had just referenced in my newsletter, well, my curiosity got the best of me. I bought a ticket, which included a copy of the book, and had the pleasure of hearing Daniel Pink speak in person this past week.
Don’t you LOVE when stuff like that happens?
A TRAIL BACK HOME
In keeping with the analogy of breadcrumbs - I have to say, what felt like a spark of curiosity, also ended up being a path back home.
I haven’t attended an event like this in well over two years. I forgot how much I love doing stuff like this. I was so excited to have the opportunity - even though it required being up WAY past my bedtime + driving at night - something I hate doing these days.
In a strange way, it felt like coming back to myself - back to loves I had forgotten…Spending time with thinkers. Exploring disruptive ideas. Rich conversations.
It felt good.
I think there are going to be a lot of experiences like this in the months ahead as we come through this pandemic. Returning to the familiar. Remembering what we love. Reconnecting with people + places we have missed.
The pandemic was certainly a gift in the way that it stopped us in our tracks enough to recognize what we do + don’t want to go back to. But I’m realizing now that we probably have lots of surprises ahead as we start to ease our way back into gathering again.
I don’t know how to explain it, but it surprised me how much I enjoyed the whole experience. I was following the spark of curiosity around this breadcrumb that showed up on my trail. But, I didn’t realize it would lead me home.
HOW LOOKING BACKWARD MOVES US FORWARD
Now that I have this book - The Power of Regret - in my hands + have heard the author share his experience in writing it, I want to share some of the thoughts it uncovered for me + encourage you to read it for yourself. It’s an easy read with some deep revelations.
We’ve all heard the battle cry ‘No Regrets’. You see it on everything from hashtags to tattoos - this idea that we should just go for it + never look back. No regrets!
But, turns out, regret is a powerful + very misunderstood emotion. It’s not something we should be avoiding, but rather something we should be leaning into.
Understanding regret + reckoning with it can be a transformative doorway to living a better life.
Instead of avoiding, shaming, or hiding any of our regrets, it might be time to cozy up with them. Not to wallow in them, but to look at them a little differently so we can benefit from all they have to teach us.
Regrets are signals - breadcrumbs - that can tell us so much about what we value most + how to bring more purpose + meaning into our daily lives.
The first thing I found interesting in this conversation was how the author pulled together the largest sampling of attitudes about regrets in his World Regret Survey - which has collected regrets from more than 16,000 people all over the world. That’s a LOT of regret! And guess what? Turns out we all tend to regret the same things.
The World Regret Survey revealed four core regrets that seem to be independent of location or age. In other words, they are HUMAN. That alone is pretty mind-blowing. (We are more alike than we think!)
Daniel Pink dives into these four core regrets in the book, but at a high level, they are:
Foundation - These are those little things that in the short term are no big deal, but cost you in the long run. Small decisions that lead to bad consequences. Regrets like wishing you had saved more money or exercised more or ate more healthy.
Boldness - These are those regrets around not taking the chance - going on that trip or taking that job or starting that business or asking that person out.
Moral - These are those regrets about not doing the right thing. Things like infidelity or causing harm to others.
Connection - These are those regrets about not reaching out to someone when you felt you should. Or letting too much time go by - drifting apart or allowing a conflict to separate you from someone.
What is especially interesting is how knowing these core regrets shows us what we as humans value most. Can you see those? The opposites of the four core regrets shows us:
What we value most is stability, growth, goodness + love.
If you’re sitting with a decision or looking at a breadcrumb in your life, having this information can make it so much easier to move forward, right?
Is this fork in the road you are debating pointing you toward stability, growth, goodness, or love? Or is it leading down the road to regret?
The author also talked about his surprise at how willing + eager people are to share their regrets. This indicates that we WANT to expose our regrets. To share them. There’s something deep in that. It’s part of our human condition + something that connects us all.
This is not to say you need to go exposing your deepest regrets publicly, but there is a definite benefit in talking about them.
There’s also much to be learned by examining the regrets we have. Which of these four core categories does that regret fall into? What does it tell you about your values? What steps can you take to extract the lesson in it?
Another key takeaway from this conversation is that your regrets are essentially predictive. We know from the data what we will regret.
It’s one thing to look back at regrets, but what about the future? When you look ahead 10 years - what will ‘2032 you’ regret? What a great conversation to have with yourself, right? What will ‘future you’ regret in each of those categories: foundation, boldness, moral + connection.
Follow the breadcrumbs.
I invite you to think about these questions this week: What do you regret right now? What lessons can you extract from that regret? What does it show you about yourself? When you look at the four core regrets - foundation, boldness, moral + connection, can you see anything in your life that your ‘2032 you’ might regret? How can you use those thoughts to guide your choices in the here + now?
WATCH: It’s Never TOO Late | Daniel Pink on Motiversity (No time to read the book? Check out this 10-minute video which summarizes the book.)
READ: The Power of Regret | Daniel Pink
READ: Follow the Breadcrumbs to your Purpose | Psychology Today
PARTICIPATE: World Regret Survey | Daniel Pink
I think the biggest regrets are the things we don’t do or don’t say. So, when you see that next breadcrumb in your life, follow it. See where it goes. This newsletter has been very much that way for me. I kept seeing breadcrumbs + following them. One spark led to the next + then the next + the next. It’s so much fun to watch the path unfold. I don’t know exactly where it’s going, but I can assure you - this is just the start of the adventure. Maybe the path goes right back home - most adventures do. But, you’ll never know if you don’t follow the breadcrumbs.
See you next week?
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