best regrets Ask Dr. G
Written by Doctor G

The Best Regrets


As a teenager I saw somewhere, probably on a bumper sticker (if this isn’t a familiar concept, picture a meme people printed out and taped to their car) that said “I only regret the things I didn’t do!” Like many bumper stickers and memes, this one turns out to be talking to everyone and often true.

Our brains experience regret in two big categories: regret over the way an action played out, and regret over actions left unchosen.

Those “action-related” regrets spur our brains to look for ways it could have gone and find lessons in the experience. Once we have found what we think is the useful information, most brains move the experience into the part of the brain that can let go of memory.

Research shows that “inaction-related” regrets stick around a LOT longer and are more associated with depression and anxiety. These regrets center around the loss of an ideal or possible version of ourselves and are much more highly associated with a feeling of “stuckness.”

What does this mean for us in practical terms? Well, put this together with the fact (that we’ve talked about together often) that our brains try to protect us from ALL change and resist taking action… and you can end up with a lot of stuckness and regret that won’t leave you.

When you’re considering an action and your brain says “nope” you should listen to that… and ask yourself if it’s the smartest choice to stop. It might be, but it might just be your brain’s natural caution about change. 

Is this action likely to get you closer to the life you want? Can you survive it and learn from it if it doesn’t work out?

Comment and tell me. I’m interested!

Just a different way to consider your options and give yourself the chance to have useful regrets, or one at all…
All my best,

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