Over the course of a lifetime, some amount of regret seems inevitable since mistakes, missteps, and bad decisions are part of the human condition. While we’re all vulnerable to wondering what might have happened if we’d done one thing and not the other or if we’d only acted when we didn’t, how we process regret varies from one person to the next. Paradoxically, regrets can motivate us into action (“I won’t let an opportunity like that slip away again!”) or can stop us dead in our tracks, mourning what might have been (“If only I’d left the first time he/she lied to me” or “If only I hadn’t quit that job before the company went public”). There are those among us who, echoing Edith Piaf, insist that “Non, je ne regrette rien” (“No, I regret nothing) and find the silver lining in every bad choice, thanks to what Daniel Gilbert has called the psychological immune system (aka rationalization) and a large dose of positive thinking (“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”).
Why Regret May Not Always Be a Bad Thing
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