Should We Regret?


I decided to look more into the word regret, as it has been thrown around lots lately. Personally I had a lot of troubles in the past regretting what I had done. But about 6 years ago, I looked at myself and asked why I regret so much. I realised, rather than learning what I had done wrong, I overthought what I did or didn’t do.

An example of ‘living with regret’: After the end of a long term relationship, about 10 years ago. I became very depressed, so I decided to quit my job. I did not work for over a year, butI did some travelling and personal development. I also did a lot of procrastination and spent most of my saving. I was regretting what I did for many years to come, and that resulted in me not getting over a relationship, or learning from this in my life. Now, I look at this and see the mistakes I made. But, I would like to believe that I no longer regret my actions, because I understand that I was then a different person for whom I was not ready. I also see that I made some serious misjudgment for my future, but I cannot change that now. I should learn from this and move forward, whilst remembering what I have learnt.

I personally believe that, regret is the emotion created when you have some serious learning about event(s) that happened. Regret should be an emotion you go though when you make serious errors in judgment in life. You should move from regret onto other emotions after you have learnt and forgiven yourself. So, I try to avoid this word unless I regret my actions and yet to do anything about or deal it. Do understand that: if I stopped regretting, it does not mean that I have forgotten about the negative action in the past. It is that I have made peace with what has happened and learnt from it.

Definition of Regret: credits to

Verb (Regrets, Regretting or Regretted): To feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment ect.) To think of with a sense of loss.

Noun (Regret, sl): A sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, ect. A feeling of sorrow or remorse for fault, act, loss, disappointment. A note expressions at ones ability to accept an invitation, (Plural) A polite, usually formal refusal of an invitation.

Adjective: Regretful, full of regret; sorrowful because of what is lost, gone or done or Regrettable, causing or deserving regret; unfortunate; deplorable.


“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us”.

Alexander Graham Bell

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh”.

Henry David Thoreau

“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.” 

Soren Kierkegaard

“Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.” 

Katherine Mansfield

“The only victories which leave no regret are those which are gained over ignorance.” 

Napoleon Bonaparte

“If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them… We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly — it reminds us that we know we can do better.”

Kathryn Schulz (check out this video HERE)

Looking into “Regret”

In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they discussed that psychology of regret in response to “inaction.” In the experiments, they found that the study group had regret of negative outcomes from inaction more than negative outcome from action. That, surprisingly, has massively contradicted with previous research.

A Theory of Regret Regulation, the feeling of regret is experienced when people fantasised the present, had they decided differently in the past. It is distinct from other specific emotions; on the basis of its phenomenology and behavioural consequences, such as guilt, shame and general negativity. Other emotions can be felt in many different contexts, but regret is uniquely tied to the making of decisions: no decisions, no regret.

So some Praise for Regret, a very interesting article. They talked about two studies that the purpose was to explore the assessment of regret in experience. Most research participants believed that, regret denotes aversion and pointlessness, that is a “bad” emotion. In both sets of studies, the researchers concluded that they appeared to uphold their experience of regret. The study group valued their regret significantly more than other negative emotions.

Jeffrey Inman’s paper discussed that biggest regret are related to personal improvement decisions involving education (32%), career (22%) and from personal relationships like romance (15%) and parenting(10%).

Some Helpful Advise about Regret and Where to Get More Information:

Suma Chand on how to handle regret for Anxiety and Depression Association of American wrote some question to ask yourself. Suma explained that excessive regret is not healthy and is often linked to not accepting with making mistakes. So, we need to understand that we are not perfect and/or that making mistakes is fine. During Suma’s sessions with her clients, she often starts with “Have you noticed how the excessive regret affects what you do and say?”. Check out the full question HERE I found it very helpful.

I really loved the article “Dealing with Regret: 8 Ways to Benefit and Move Forward” from Tinny Buddha. Thanks to Lori, I found her suggestions very helpful, please everyone check it out HERE.

1. Identify and address your weaknesses,

2. Use your mistake as a teaching tool,

3. Use the opportunity to become better at adapting,

4. Strengthen your ability to focus on things you can control,

5. Embrace impermanence,

6. Evaluate your relationships,

7. Get better at accepting responsibility and

8. Challenge your thinking.

Lori Deschene, author of Dealing with Regret: 8 Ways to Benefit and Move Forward

Sarah from Well + Good explained that, regret can feel very uncomfortable but we should remember that it’s not a bad emotion if we use it wisely. Regret pushes us to outline what we do not want to see. As long as we do not put the progress off and create self-hate, shame and further regret, it’s a helpful emotion. So to remember, let regret teach us a thing or two.

Let us look into the New York Times article, 6 Steps to Turn Regret Into Self-Improvement by Jennifer Taitz. Captivating as the 6 steps are:

1. Evaluate how you cope with regret,

2. Interrupt your obsessing,

3. Revisit your regret, then repeat these phrases,

4. Treat yourself like your ideal mentor would,

5. Clarify what matters to you and

6. Take action.

Jennifer Taitz, author of 6 Steps to Turn Regret Into Self-Improvement

I love that Jennifer is also inspired by the Japanese Art of Kintsugi. Rather than hide the imperfections, the restoration process highlights and proudly displaying them on the product. This sparked my curiosity of the art; when I found the article on The Lovepost so check it out HERE if like to find out more about the art.

A piece by artist Tomomi Kamoshita

On BBC Radio 4, Alex explored regret on the broadcast show Digital Human. He raised the question of “Rather than trying to eradicate this negative feeling, is it something we should learn to embrace?” (Click Here) It had me pondered…

My Final Thoughts

I hope this gives you a variety of information, to help you with the understanding of regret. By researching this topic, it has left me with more questions to be answered. I figured that the word regret and the understanding of using it are different. I have to admit: people will understand this word differently to me. I do see the similarity among regret, guilt and shame; but, they are very different at the same time. To conclude my understanding, regret is a slow emotion. Regret is inevitable in life! Moving forward I will be more aware of my emotional scars, and learn and reflect on how it changed my life.

Thank you for taking your time, hope you did not regret. Do leave me comments or drop me a message if .

2 Comments Add yours

  1. XtinaT says:

    Wow – this has actually made me look at a few things differently! Great read…really gave me food for thought.


  2. Jade says:

    Beautiful article Adam, really well written, thoughtful and insightful read for me. I really enjoyed it, you write beautifully. Definitely been very educative and helpful.
    Thankyou for sharing.


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