The New Year can be as much a time of regret as of renewal. While you are setting new resolutions, you might reflect on failed resolutions from the past—that weight you were supposed to lose or that language you were supposed to learn. And as you are returning to your normal schedule after the holidays, you might reflect on how that schedule could be better—if you got up earlier every morning, you might have more time to make a healthy breakfast at home, or if you rode your bike to work every day, you might be more fit.
As you reflect on the past year and prepare for the new one, you might ask: Are the things I regret really unique, or do we all regret the same sorts of things (lost love, missed opportunities)? Will reflecting on my regrets inspire me to do better or bog me down in the past and trap me in negativity? Psychologists have studied these questions extensively and have some interesting and inspiring answers. Over the next two posts, I will try to share some of what they have learned. Below, I focus on what regret is and what sorts of things people generally regret. Tomorrow, I will write about how regret may actually be helpful.