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How to Overcome Regret and Seize the Day — Scientifically | TIME

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What Do We Regret The Most?

Regrets about education, career, romance, and parenting top the list.

Via Mastering the Art of Quitting: Why It Matters in Life, Love, and Work:

The six biggest regrets fell into the following domains, in descending order: education, career, romance, parenting, self-improvement, and leisure. (If you’re curious, the next six were finance, family, health, friends, spirituality, and community.) It’s a bit surprising that education was the number one regret, but the authors argue this point: “Opportunity breeds regret. Feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment are strongest where the chances for corrective reaction are clearest.”

You Have A Psychological Immune System

Your brain doesn’t want you overwhelmed with regret 24/7. So it conspires to help you. What does it do?

It rationalizes. We humans are rationalizing machines.

So when you do something stupid, you feel bad but part of your brain immediately starts digging for silver livings:

  • I should have left that terrible job sooner… but staying there I really learned a lot about myself.
  • The marriage didn’t work out… but otherwise I wouldn’t have had these beautiful kids.

We all do it and it helps us get by. But what happens when you don’t do something stupid? When you don’t do anything at all?

It’s hard to learn from experience when there is no experience. It’s harder to generate silver linings for things you never did.

Harvard happiness expert Dan Gilbert explains:

But why do people regret inactions more than actions? One reason is that the psychological immune system has a more difficult time manufacturing positive and credible views of inactions than of actions… when our inaction causes us to reject a marriage proposal from someone who later becomes a movie star, we can’t console ourselves by thinking of all the things we learned from the experience because… well, there wasn’t one.

To get over regret, ask what you can learn, and ask how it could have been worse.

An “upward counterfactual” is great for learning but over time it’s what creates that nagging ache of regret.

How do we kill the pain now that we’ve learned our lesson?

This is where we need what researchers call a “downward counterfactual.” Ask “How could things have been worse?”

Research shows this kills the negative feelings associated with regret. Turn disappointment into gratitude.

Take “I can’t believe I crashed my car. I’m so stupid.” and turn it into “I’m so lucky I didn’t die in the accident. How wonderful!”

The combination of these questions is a great one-two punch:

  1. We all know people who immediately ask the second without the first. They feel better but don’t learn a thing and repeat their mistakes.
  2. And we’re all guilty of merely asking the first question without the second — just beating yourself up over what you should have done.

That said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — how can we stop making new regrets?

And the answer to this can actually be a lot of fun.

Read more:

Candy Chang TED youtube: Before I die I want to...

No no no no, a million times no. 

Regret is a second or third derivative of grasping for something you feel you do not have or losing something you feel you did have or need. 

When there is no grasping there can be no new regret and old regrets dissolve on their own 

Please there is nothing to learn.  It is a process of realizing what you learned was a lie. 

"Your brain doesn’t want you overwhelmed with regret 24/7. So it conspires to help you. What does it do?"

No, it conspires to delude you thinking it is helping but it is not. 

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