I don’t have many regrets. I used to carry them around with me by the bucket load. I would ruminate on stupid things I did, things I wished I’d said, go over old battles with people who’d slighted me. I was really good at it. But at some time in my twenties, I let go of it all.
I don’t remember how I managed it. Perhaps it was a ‘coming of age’ thing. Perhaps it was all the self improvement and productivity books on my shelf and in my audible account. Maybe a combination of the two, or more.
Whatever the cause, I felt free, like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Why? Because, with regret, comes judgment, and I was, in effect, daily judging myself. Judging a version of me that couldn’t respond to the criticism, judging a version of me that was younger and less wise.
That’s one of my big realisations, looking back on it. You always have a superior vantage point over your younger self. Perfect hindsight.
Most of us get upset if we feel like we’re being judged by other people (I know I do), so why do it to ourselves? Why be an arse to a younger you?
Whose fault is it?!
There’s a version of this behaviour that shows up at work as well. When the shit hits the fan, the pointy fingers come out and people are quick to look for someone to blame. You’re playing the corporate equivalent of musical chairs. Don’t be the one left standing at the end, or you’re out.
And how do people show up when they work in this environment? Constantly on guard. Looking for signs of danger. Their fight or flight instincts constantly engaged.
The inevitable outcome is that enjoyment and creativity are stifled and productivity is minimised, as people focus all their time and attention on survival.
That’s the same in our personal lives too:
- I wish I’d invested in Bitcoin in 2009
- If only I’d taken psychology at university instead of English
- Why didn’t I visit more countries when I was in my 20s?
How can you have known those were good ideas at the time?
And more importantly, what are you missing out on now, by focusing your mental energy on the past?
What can we learn from this?
I’m fortunate to work for a company where it’s more important to learn lessons from failures than it is to find blame.
Where every 2-4 weeks we sit down and ask: Where did we go wrong? What can we do better next time? How can we improve?
No judgement. No who? or why? questions.
And because of that openness, we get more of the big problems tackled.
And in that culture people enjoy themselves more.
AND because it’s a great place to work, we’re more productive.
Applying some of that corporate maturity to my own life, I occasionally look at what I can learn from my past. Lessons I’d teach myself if I could go back 20 years. Equally lessons I’d carry forward for the next 20.
Here are some that I’ve identified and am trying to remember day-to-day:Learn to communicate better.
Learn to communicate better
- Poor communication is the starting point for misunderstanding and conflict. However good you are at getting your point across, improve. It will help you in no end of ways.
- So smile more at people, say ‘hi’ and see where it takes you.
- Ask people big, open questions.
- When you want to pass on a message, take the time to see if it’s clear first.
To be continued…