From Past Regrets to Third Act Lessons for the Road Ahead.
I’ve had the pleasure of participating in and co-organizing the MEA Corazon Third Act Discussion Group over the past year or so, along with Pat Whitty, Stuart Evans, and others. Our monthly topics have led to some interesting and very relevant discussions to all of us as we age.
Most recently, Diane Caslow led a discussion titled, “Harnessing Regret as a Motivational Force and Indispensable Emotion,” which was loosely based on Daniel Pink’s newly published book, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward.
Most of us have regrets in our lives we can identify; some we might dwell upon and think about as a thorn in our side or with shame, while others we might even sweep under the proverbial rug, never really examining them in an honest light. Part and parcel with further travel down the road of life is that we have greater hindsight to look back upon.
On a recent Third Act call, I realized many of my greatest regrets share in common that, at 60, I have more plentiful opportunities to reflect and wonder whether the grass would have been greener had I made a different choice or taken a more divergent path—not necessarily just from the one I chose, but perhaps from the success scripts I bought into, which dictated what was appropriate or acceptable . . . to others, rather than to me.
I began to sense something very familiar, and then it hit me. Having led and worked on numerous projects for the past 30+ years, I am accustomed to the best practice of doing what is commonly referred to as a “post-mortem” at the conclusion of a project and trying to understand what worked and what didn’t. (Note: I say ‘best practice’ because, to be completely candid, this step is often skipped as a casualty in yielding to the breakneck pace of busy companies that demands project teams move on quickly to meet the next looming deadline.)
When we conducted these project post-mortems, what invariably stood out as most important was not what went right or wrong, but why. The why is where the gold lies; it informs us how to modify the way we handle similar situations when they arise again and make positive strides forward.
Here is yet another way in which we modern elders, who have burned some tread on our tires, have an opportunity to create even greater strength: through coupling our wisdom skills of pattern recognition and seeing commonalities with doing what I want to now call a “PRE-MORTEM,” in which we truthfully take stock and evaluate our lives and take away the wise lessons of why. That is, why the decisions which led to the regrets we still harbor—or even the blind assumptions we made in life—didn’t work as well for us as they might have otherwise. By far the most important part of this exercise is for us to glean new awareness about ourselves and our decision-making that we can retain and call upon in the days, weeks, and years ahead, pre-mortem, to live our best lives!
Moss Kardener heads OnStrategy Consultants, an Oakland-based firm specializing in strategy development, positioning, and brand marketing for small and mid-size product and service businesses. For MEA alum Corazon members, write Moss at mossk@OnStrategyConsultants.com to learn about the next Third Act conversation on July 28.