Regret is the emotion that we experience our present condition that can be better or happier if we done something different in the past.

Regret require 2 things:

  1. Require we make a decision.
  2. Imagination, able to imagine going back and imagine different decision made and the condition we will facing later.


The more imagination we imagine, the more acute our regret will be. For example if you heading for your best exam but you stuck in terrific traffic and you miss the exam, you will fell more regret on late for 3 minute than 20 minute, why? Because late for 3 minute you will be easily painfully imagine if you could make different decision that lead to different outcome such as I should take tunnel not that road, I should go over the yellow light, these are the classic condition that we create regret, we regret on the decision that we make came out badly but almost came out good.

What we regret on?

Top 6 followed by the highest is education:32% , career :22%, romance: 15% , parenting: 10%, self : 5.47%, leisure: 2.55, finance : 2.52% and other are family, health, friends, spirituality and community. So we always regret that if we could study harder or if only we could enter which good university or study abroad or I could attend the class when I was in university. Strange that there are very less people regret on what they bought.

Components of regret,

The first thing is denial, for example when you regret on tattoo, you will think of make the tattoo away, just want it to be vanish.

The second is bewilderment, how I could do that? What was I thinking? Do not understand why you did that.

The third is punishment, that why the consistent thing that says to ourselves is I could kick myself!

The forth thing is what the psychology speak about is perseveration, mean focus and repeat the exact same thing, basically is take the first 3 components regret and put them in a infinite loop, is not I sat there at bedroom thinking make the tattoo go away, but thought make it go away, make it go away, make it go away.

These 4 are the literature of psychology, and the author want to suggest the fifth one, there are certain thing that we desperately change but we cannot…not like undo, unfriend. However the level of regret depend on what kind of situation we concentrate on or care about.

So how do we live with that?

  1. Live with it, If Google regret and tattoo, got 11.5 million, 17% of the people regret on getting tattoo and all of you together.
  2. Laugh at ourselves, learn to be humor yourself or even black humor can help you.
  3. To ease with regret is that we just pass on the time
  4. Some regrets are not as ugly as you think you are.


If we have goal and dream and want to do best, do not hurt people we love, we should feel pain when we do something wrong, the point is not living without pain, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them.

We need to learn to love the flaw, imperfect thing we create and forgive ourselves for creating them, regret does not remind us that we did badly, it remind us that we can do better!!!



Reference: Kathryn Schulz at TED talk




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