Sunday, July 13, 2014

What Will You Regret Not Doing?

We often think of the things in life that we regret doing, but in reality, it's the things we regret not doing that weigh upon us most heavily.

While there are lessons to be learned from mistakes made, and wisdom to be obtained from looking at them in retrospect (hindsight is 20/20, right?) then what occurs when one looks back - days, months, or years later upon his/her inactions?
 
The answer is regret.
 
When we regret things, it happens in the context of thinking of what could of, should of, or might have been. This is called counterfactual thinking in psychology because it runs counter to the truth, or reality, as you know it. The result is that the weight of the regret gets heavier based upon how much we long for, or the significance we place in, the missed opportunity.
 
Interestingly enough, while we all have regrets, no matter how large or small, the top regrets, according to recent surveys, revolve around the following areas:
  1. Education
  2. Career
  3. Romance
After a decade of teaching and twenty years of coaching and mentoring, I've observed how and why these are the top regrets of most people. A recent TED Talk by Kathryn Schulz entitled Don’t Regret Regret provides insights that support such surveys.
 
Ultimately, what we regret is that which we are not conscious enough to do in the moment.  Things that will carry future repercussions and create circumstances that remind us of actions that we did not take...actions that that would have offered some future benefits.
 
The video below surveyed those who were about to die and offers profound perspectives on regrets, which should offer a wake-up call about what matters most.