Monday, July 7, 2014

What might have been

Do you live with regret? Does it drag you down and rob you of happiness and joy?

Studies show that 90 percent of people say they have a major regret about one thing or another in their lives. Researchers from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management learned that the biggest sources of regret are romance, family, education, career and finance. They say our social regrets "loom largest because of our inherent need to belong."

And if you have dreams that you haven't yet pursued, perhaps it's time to take another look at that. This research shows that people feel lots of regret about missed chances—not about things tried and perhaps even failed. Researchers say that's because our psychological immune system helps us recover from bad experiences because we rationalize and reframe how we view things. But it's more difficult to use those same tricks to move past something we never tried in the first place. So go ahead: Follow your dreams and your passions.

The same is true of pleasures and indulgences. Guilt over indulgences is short-lived. But the disappointment over fun we passed up leads to longer-lasting regrets. I can relate to that. I did a lot of global travel in a former job. In the course of those travels, I had the opportunity to buy many wonderful artifacts that could serve as memories of places I'd been. What I discovered was that I never regretted having spent money on those things I did purchase, but I did regret not having bought particular items (often because I thought I couldn't afford it). Later I realized I'd never return to many of those places again, so there wouldn't be another chance to buy this artwork, that jewelry or some other artifact.

If you have regrets, see what you can learn from them. Reframe them. Take an action step either to let go of them or move on to do what's on your heart to pursue.

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