How to Overcome Regret and Seize the Day â€” Scientifically | TIME
Eric Barker stashed this in Diabolical Plans For World Domination
What Do We Regret The Most?
Regrets about education, career, romance, and parenting top the list.
The six biggest regrets fell into the following domains, in descending order: education, career, romance, parenting, self-improvement, and leisure. (If youâ€™re curious, the next six were finance, family, health, friends, spirituality, and community.) Itâ€™s a bit surprising that education was the number one regret, but the authors argue this point: â€śOpportunity breeds regret. Feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment are strongest where the chances for corrective reaction are clearest.â€ť
You Have A Psychological Immune System
Your brain doesnâ€™t want you overwhelmed with regret 24/7. So it conspires to help you.Â What does it do?
It rationalizes. We humans areÂ rationalizing machines.
SoÂ 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 soonerâ€¦ but staying there I really learned a lot about myself.
- The marriage didnâ€™t work outâ€¦ but otherwise I wouldnâ€™t have had these beautiful kids.
We all do it and it helps us get by.Â But what happens when you donâ€™t do something stupid? When you donâ€™t do anything at all?
Itâ€™s hard to learn from experienceÂ when there is no experience. Itâ€™s harder to generate silver linings for things you never did.
Harvard happiness expertÂ 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 actionsâ€¦Â when our inaction causes us to reject a marriage proposal from someone who later becomes a movie star, we canâ€™t console ourselves by thinking of all the things we learned from the experience becauseâ€¦ well, there wasnâ€™t one.
To get over regret, ask what you can learn, and ask how it could have been worse.
An â€śupward counterfactualâ€ť is great for learning but over time itâ€™s what creates that nagging ache of regret.
How do we kill the pain now that weâ€™ve learned our lesson?
This is where we need what researchers call a â€śdownward counterfactual.â€ťÂ Ask â€śHow could things have been worse?â€ť
Take â€śI canâ€™t believe I crashed my car. Iâ€™m so stupid.â€ť and turn it into â€śIâ€™m so lucky I didnâ€™t die in the accident. How wonderful!â€ť
The combination of these questions is a great one-two punch:
- We all know people who immediately ask the second without the first. They feel better but donâ€™t learn a thing and repeat their mistakes.
- And weâ€™re all guilty of merely asking the first question without the second â€” just beating yourself up over what you should have done.
That said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure â€” how can we stop making new regrets?
And the answer to this can actually be a lot of fun.
No no no no, a million times no.Â
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.Â
When there is no grasping there can be no new regret and old regrets dissolve on their ownÂ
Please there is nothing to learn. Â It is a process of realizing what you learned was a lie.Â
"Your brain doesnâ€™t want you overwhelmed with regret 24/7. So it conspires to help you.Â What does it do?"
No, it conspires to delude you thinking it is helping but it is not.Â