“I wish I changed my career in my twenties.”

“I shouldn’t have dropped out of college.”

“If I could go back in time, I would take better care of my parents.”

“How I wish I could talk to the 17-year-old me and tell him not to try out that cigarette”.

Do you have such regrets in your life? Most people answer yes, with a sigh. In a survey, 82% of people said they frequently look at life through the rearview mirror and wish they had acted differently. Those who said they never looked back at life constituted only one percent; there is a good chance they are lying.

Most people wish they could hop to a precise moment in their lives, like they do on a YouTube video, and act differently in that circumstance. This feeling is so nagging that it can cause sleepless nights, lost appetites, and grumpiness (which sometimes leads to further regret).

In this blog, let’s explore the landscape of regret.

Regret Survey

Daniel Pink and his team lead the largest survey on regret. He collected the regrets of people from more than 105 countries and analyzed them. The results were so appalling that Pink didn’t regret conducting the regret survey.

Based on his studies, he divided regrets into four broad categories.

  1. Foundational regret
    These regrets are caused due to thought that “I could have done better.” Some samples from the survey are: “I should have started investing in my twenties.” “If I had spent half an hour in the gym, how different I would’ve looked!” 
  2. Boldness regret
    Don’t you wish you had asked out the stunning blonde you met at the bar? Regrets of chances not taken form boldness regret. Another study conducted on centenarians confirms this. Lion-share of their regrets are about risks never taken, business/career opportunities turned down, not asking out the beautiful girl, and so on.
  3. Moral regrets
    The most painful of all is moral regret. It is the feeling that you should have acted better in a circumstance. Getting angry at someone, not helping someone in need, and not choosing the high road during a conflict can all lead to moral regrets.
  4. Connection regrets
    Lost relationships, fractured families, and uncared-for children and parents can cause connection regrets. These formed the biggest category, meaning broken relationships bother people more than anything else. 


Regret is painful. It is a punishment in itself. Hence most try to avoid it. It is as uncomfortable as walking around in a small-sized shoe. The twist is that shoes can be taken off, but regrets cannot.

In its severest form, regrets can take the wind out of our sails. It can atonce hinder our progress and make us feel as worthless as a sack of potatoes. Some drown their regrets in alcohol, while others live in eternal discomfort.

Studies have proven that people fear regret so much that they try to avoid all kinds of risks. This reflects in stock market decisions, overinvestment in safety measures, and even the rush for limited-time-deal purchases. Psychologists and economists are fascinated by this human tendency, which they call regret aversion bias. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), the topic of my previous blog, is also a form of this bias.

However, should we antagonize the feeling so much? Many experts say no. They believe that regrets can teach us many things if we take the time to listen to them. But sometimes, it is necessary to curb the pain. Here are some tips:

Pen it down

Write down your regrets. Condensing your pain into words is a form of catharsis. If not solve the problem, seeing it in a tangible form can make it less complicated. 

You can even start a blog and make a living from writing about your regrets if you know what I mean.

Forgive yourself

You are your fiercest critic. We forgive others but find it difficult to make peace with ourselves. If you have regret, imagine your loved one in your situation and try to talk them out of beating themselves up. Mostly your advice to others is the best suit for you.

Balance it out

Everyone has regrets and prides in their past. It is, however, a human tendency to focus only on the negative. You can actually counterbalance your regrets by recollecting your proud moments. For instance, if you feel you did not take enough care of your deceased mom, remember all the times you made her happy.

Learn from your regrets

To err is human, to learn from it makes us better humans. In the journey of life, you shouldn’t get stuck on one unfortunate mistake you’ve made. Learn lessons from it and move on. If it is an open door problem, remedy it. For instance, if you wish you had kept in touch with your friends, do what needs to be done: pick up the phone and ping them. If it is a closed-door problem, forgive yourself and move on.

We really need to reassess our regrets or at least be ready to stop regretting the regrets.

Thank you for reading. Please post your thoughts below.

4 thoughts on “Regret and its curious effects”

  1. ” The results were so appalling that Pink didn’t regret conducting the regret survey” 😄

    1. Thank you ❤️. It has to be said that regrets cannot be avoided. But we can stop focussing on them and look forward as you said.

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