Turn Regret Into Something Positive

By Stephen M

Having regrets is almost inevitable. As humans, we may always have our regrettable moments. Our decisions and indecisions can cause us more significant regrets if the results are negative. Growing up, we were always told to make the right decisions or do the right things to avoid regrets. Honestly, this is great advice anyone can give you. However, it can also be ambiguous and may not apply in certain areas of life. How suitable is a “right decision”?   

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Philosopher Lloyd Humberstone once said following this advice could be problematic. Using racing as an example, he indicated you could bet $2 on a horse, which is reasonable. However, it wins; you regret betting just $2 and wish you had put down more. If it loses, you will regret betting. In this scenario, both winning and losing come with inevitable downsides.

Every choice we make has its accompanying regrets. Our career, relationships, and educational decisions may have hidden regrets. They may look fine initially, but after some time and upon deep reflection, we may have concerns. The good news is that we can still take some positives from out of the negative experiences.

What Regret Can Teach Us

Regret has more great lessons to teach us. It can make us better and help us to make informed decisions. It is therefore advisable to avoid dwelling incessantly on regrets even though this may be difficult to achieve. Let’s look at some psychological situations that bring about regrets.

A study by psychologist Thomas Gilovich and his co-authors found some underlying causes of our regret. They found some things we regret, why, and how they evolve.

In his work with Victoria Husted Medvec, they explored how people feel about their actions and inactions. They found that most people do regret the wrong decisions or actions they took immediately after an incident. However, in the long run, they start regretting why they didn’t do or take particular actions but did otherwise. So, inactions come with long-term regrets. This includes decisions they make on their education, relationship, family, friends, and finances. Knowing this, you may want to make things right to avoid such failures.

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Some regrets also come with our failure to live by our own dictates and ideas or achieve our goals. Imagine wanting to become a doctor but then later decide to join the army as a soldier. You may harbor lifelong regrets if things don’t work as envisaged. Here, you can correct your errors by making things rights or use your life lessons as a case study when advising others. Use what you have deemed regret as a way to connect with and help others, as well as yourself.