As Frank Sinatra once sang: “Regrets, I have a few/ But then again, to few to mention.” Most of my regrets involve food and drink — specifically, food and drink I wish I hadn’t consumed so much of on any given night (especially that one night… oy vey). I wish, back when I was 26 and not sure what the hell to do with myself, I’d kept working until I figured it out instead of going thousands of dollars into debt for graduate school and still being confused about my future when it was all said and done. And, of course, when it comes to relationships, mistakes were made, and I’d definitely do things differently if I had a chance for a do-over.
This latter regret, it seems, is definitely not unique — at least not for women. According to a new study, “about 44 percent of the regrets described by women were about relationship mistakes compared to 19 percent of men’s. In general, about 18 percent of those polled “cited regrets involving romance. That was followed closely by regrets about family (16 percent), education (13 percent) and career (12 percent), finance (10 percent) and parenting (9 percent).”
Many of the regrets cited were about missed opportunities and failing to take risks, both in relationships and around work and career. There’s a sort of double-edged sword associated with rising higher in society and being presented with greater opportunities. The more opportunities one has, the more potential directions there are for one’s life to go. It’s human nature to wonder about the opportunities not taken — the paths not traveled — and to compare where you have ended up to where you imagine you might have gone had you chosen differently.
“Regret is an essential part of the human experience,” says senior study author Neal Roese, a psychologist and professor of marketing at Northwestern. “You should listen to the lessons your regrets tell you, which is quite often how you could have done things differently or how you could change things.”
Everyone makes mistakes, adds Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago. “It’s how you get up, and how you rebound, that matters. Instead of letting regret dominate life, savor what you do have, and what did go right . . . We need to look more in terms of our strengths, and not our weaknesses.”
So, what are some of the decisions you are happy and proud you made? I’d say, for me, the best decision I made was moving to New York to see if I had a future with Drew. Up until that point, I’d let fear keep me stuck in relationships and patterns that didn’t work. Making that big move was one time I felt the fear and “did it anyway” and it made all the difference in my life. Starting this website was a pretty good decision — one that involved some risk on my part — and one whose rewards I hope continue to grow. What about you?