What do we regret the most?
In their book, Mastering the Art of Quitting: Why it matters in Life, Love and Work by Peg Streep and Alan B. Bernstein they uncover the top ten regrets and categorised them. They ranked them as follows: People’s biggest regret is education. This didn’t surprise researchers. It was the cause of many respondent’s sense of regret due to lost opportunities. The second biggest regrets were issues about people’s career, then came romance, then parenting, self-improvement, finance, family, health, friends, spirituality and in 10th place was community.
In her TED Talk, Kathryn Schulz gives a heartfelt and somewhat humorous talk on why regret might not be such a bad thing. The talk is entitled, “Don’t Regret Regret.” She outlines her story using a tattoo she had done and soon regretted. She discusses the stages we go through in our struggle to overcome regret. It first starts with denial. That’s where you wish the whole big mistake would just go away. This is soon followed by bewilderment. Asking yourself over and over how you could have done what you did? Punishment follows as you consider kicking yourself for being so stupid. Just as you’re getting over the punishment you’re dolling out on yourself, perseveration kicks in. That’s when denial, bewilderment and punishment occur again and again, as if in a loop.
Schultz adds a 5th to this list – Idiocy. Being exposed and vulnerable for your error, especially in a society that sees failure as something to avoid, you can’t avoid feeling like an idiot.
What do you regret?
Do you wish you completed your studies when you could have? Do you regret spending years studying in a direction you never enjoyed in the first place? Maybe you didn’t send a letter that could have changed your life. Or you regret all those years lost to addiction or alcoholism. Did you spend enough time with your children at the critical times of their lives? Did you marry the wrong person? Did you stay married longer than you should have? Did you try hard enough to stay married? Were you the cause of a marriage to break up? Do you regret breaking someone’s heart?
Many of us regret being at a toxic company for too long. What about going back to a toxic job, is that your biggest regret? Two classic regrets: Not having a signed contract and signing as surety for someone. Many people speak of a lost business opportunity that later turns out to be a huge success. Have you ever left a partnership a few months before the business was sold for a huge profit? How many folks have regrets about not patenting an idea and later seeing the product for sale in a store? Or, do you regret getting inked?
This is a list of my regrets.
You could say I should join ol’ blue eyes, Frank Sinatra, while he croons, “Regrets, I’ve had a few!” from his 1969 song “My Way.” But I see it the same way Kathryn Schulz does:
“Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly — it reminds us that we know we can do better.”
I hope you are able to embrace your regrets and allow them to drive you to do better.
Have an awesome weekend! 😄