Do you know the power of regret?

Do you know the power of regret? How does the power of regret change your life? So, what do you regret about something in life? Do you regret doing something you did or something you didn’t? You must have felt bad for yourself.  Why do we always feel regrets?  If regret makes us feel bad, why do we feel sorry? 


Do you know the power of regret?


We all have regrets, because if we have no regrets. Then we are not human beings. Some have regrets about doing and some have regrets about not doing it.


Both give pain equally. If you read my other article, you found that I always advise you to “do not regret” or leave your past and move forward. But I also advise that, do not block your past thoughts. You have not done it. Because it is a neutral process.


So what do we do, why not manipulate our past thoughts and use the power of regret. One thing we do not have to deny. 


Our past thoughts are also valuable experiences for us. Which shows us the path in persent. It is a universal truth that we all have regrets. So why not use the power of regret to make our present fruitful.


Why do past thoughts change into regrets?


There are two types of thought: one is good past thoughts (positive thoughts). This means good thought is an archive of those thoughts. 

When it comes to our thought process. It excites us, it fills us with pleasure, joy and hope.


These are thoughts which we want to rewind many times. Because it satisfies us. The second thought is our bad thoughts (negative thoughts).


This means bad thoughts are an archive of those thoughts. Which always discourages us.

It fills us with fear, sadness, and hopelessness. It is the reason for our restlessness.


And our restlessness leads to regrets. Our condition will become like a snake and Asian house shrew. Because when snakes catch it. If he eats he can die and if he does not eat, he can also die.


So humans also run through the same situation as a snake. Because he does not block the thoughts to come. And also not able to take any action because of the fear and pain of regrets.


Therefore regret is our fear. Fear of not doing an action or fear of failure if any action will be taken. Not to leave the thoughts and decrease the pain. Because of any past incident.


Regret is the thought. In which we blame ourselves for any action. Which we perform but the result is not in our favour. Or which we do not perform. And because of that, we lost many opportunities. In both cases we have regrets.


Many people think that remorse is a stupid thing. You should forget your regrets and move on.  Regrets make us feel bad. 


That’s why many famous icons like Edith Piaf claim that they have no regrets.  “I have no regrets,” is the line Bob Dylan, John Travolta, Tony Robbins, and even Angelina Jolie have said.  


Many people around the world have tattooed “No Regrets” on their bodies.  “No Regrets” is also the title of many songs and self-help books. 


Having no regrets sounds right, sounds convincing, but the only problem with this is that this mindset is wrong. Regret is our inbuilt part of being human.

But the pain of regret gives us the chance to change into the power of regret. Our determination, passion, and hope have the power to change it.


You don’t need to run away from it or feel bad about it. The power of Regret helps you make better decisions, better yourself and give meaning to life.  


This has been proved by many studies done by researchers over the years.  We will talk more about these studies later.  


It is only humans who can feel regrets.  A person who cannot feel regrets either has a brain problem or has suffered a brain injury.  


In a 2004 study, cognitive scientists were using a gambling game to study regret. They had two digital roulette games that participants had to spin through a computer. Participants could choose only one roulette from among them.  


Depending on the result, he could win or lose money.  The participant who had lost the money was feeling bad.  But the participants who had lost money felt worse. 


When they found out that. They would have won money if they had chosen another roulette. These participants felt regret. 


But some participants did not regret it at all.  Even knowing that he could have won, he didn’t feel bad. These people were patients who had problems with the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain.


Why do we feel regrets?


We feel regret because we have two special abilities that only human beings have. First, we can go to both the past and the future in our minds.  


The second ability is that we can make up stories of events that have never happened.  For example, take the remorse of myself.  Today when I think about my past “I regretted giving 7 years of my valuable time to the competitive exam. 


Instead of that, I do a master’s in business administration. Which adds extra potential to my resume. My life would have been different. I found a better job. 


And I would have been happier and more content and would feel like achieving something bigger.”  I made an alternative where I did an MBA instead of preparing for a competitive exam.  I imagined a future where I was more satisfied with my career.


Our ability to mentally time travel and see an event differently makes us feel regretful.  We should also talk about the factors that differentiate regrets from other negative emotions like sadness and frustration.  


The first factor is when we have regrets, we compare.  Like I  may feel sad or hopeless. Because I did what was not going to be fruitful for me in the future. Instead of that, if I do an MBA, it’s given me more opportunities and exposure. 


But I was able to feel regret. Because I compared my present with the presence of my friends. Whom life shows better than mine.  


Second, we experience the blame.  We are sorry for our own mistakes, not for the mistakes of others.  I was feeling remorse because I knew that I had the option of taking the advice of my parents and teacher. 


And I could have taken other decisions and actions. I was feeling remorse because I knew that I was the cause of my suffering.


What is counterfactual thinking?


It is our ability in which we can imagine such events which are different from the fact that happened. There are two types of counterfactuals.  


First, to think that something worse could have been done than what happened. It includes the statement “At least”.  For example, “I scored poorly in the final exam, but at least I passed.” 


Another counterfactual is to think about things that could have been better.  It includes the “If Only” statement.  Like, “If only I had studied a little better, my numbers could have been better.  


“Saying “At Least” makes us feel good. It gives us comfort and solace. “I didn’t get a promotion but at least I didn’t get fired.  


On the other hand, saying “If Only” makes us feel bad. It brings stress and frustration to us.  “If only I had worked a little harder for the interview, I would have got this job. 


It seems logical that people would choose to say “At Least” over “If Only”. After all, we all want happiness and try to avoid pain. But it is not.  


You are surprised to know that 80% of the time people use “If Only”. Only in times of trouble did people say something different like,  “We may have lost our belongings in this accident but at least we are alive.  But we mostly use “If Only” in our everyday experiences. This is how our brain works.


Why do we do this?  


Why do we hurt ourselves thinking about our mistakes?  Do we get pleasure from hurting ourselves?  Well, regrets are necessary for our survival. 


 “At Least” counterfactuals make us feel good for the time being. But do not improve our performance or decisions in the future. “If Only” counterfactuals make us feel bad. But they are good for us later on. Regrets Ultimate “If  Only by making us feel bad today, regrets helps us do better tomorrow.


The benefits of regrets?


There are 3 benefits to regret.  Which makes regret powerful. It can improve your decisions. It can improve your performance and make it more meaningful to what you are doing.  The power of regret is following. 


First, regrets make our decisions better.  Suppose you bought a guitar which you rarely use. Right now it is just occupying the space kept in your room and you have to need money.  


Coincidentally, your friend Maria needs a second-hand guitar. He asked you how much you would sell that guitar to him.  


Suppose you paid $ 500 for that guitar, then $ 300 is a good deal for it. But Maria is not ready to pay that much, then you are ready to give her $ 225. 

When you tell her this to Maria, she immediately agrees and gives you the money. Now, will you regret it?  When people accept your first offer without hesitation. You get angry with yourself for not asking for a bigger amount.  


Admitting your regrets in such situations helps you make better decisions in the future. The simple benefit of your regret was. The older you were, the more time you spent preparing your next deal.  


The pain of regret slows you down. You collect more information and explore more options. You have more time to make decisions. Because you are more careful not to repeat the same mistake.


Second, Another advantage of regret is that it improves your performance.  Psychologists often use changes in their research. Finding new combinations from a set of changes or words reveals a lot about a human’s mind. 


Social psychologist Keith Markman gave a group of participants 10 anagrams to solve to know the power of regret.  He told them that this would grade him.  


After some time Markman told the participants that he was able to find only half of the existing words. He created regrets among the participants.  


Markman asked him to think about his performance and how he could improve it.  Participants were flooded with “If Only.” 


They felt worse than the other group, who were told to think “At Least”, such as “At Least, I found half the answers right.” 


Interestingly,  in the next set of the anagram, the participants who felt regrets solved more puzzles, engaged in that task for a longer period and performed better than the rest. 


In another experiment done by Keith Markman, he asked the participants to play blackjack on the computer. He told a group that after playing one round their work would be done.  


Markman from the second group said that their game would continue even after the first round was over.  

Participants who knew they would play again had more “If Onlys” than participants who stopped after the first round. 


They regretted his strategy and risked too much or too little.  At the same time, the first group did not mind. 


Third, the third advantage of regret is that it increases the meaning.  Abby Henderson is one of the participants of the World Regret Survey. She is a 29-year-old writer.  


She grew up in Arizona, but in the winter season, her entire family used to go to her maternal grandparents’ place in Indiana to avoid the cold.  


Both her parents used to work. Abby was a quiet child. So she enjoyed spending time with herself after school. But in Indiana, her maternal grandmother always waited for her to come home and ask her how his day went.  


Abby was getting irritated by this. She had rejected the connection attempts on behalf of her maternal grandmother.  But now she regrets it.  Her biggest regret is not knowing the life story of his maternal grandparents.  


So when her father turned 70, she bought him a subscription to Story Worth.  Every week the service would e-mail questions such as, “What’s the best memory of your childhood?” or “What do you like most about your mother?” 


A story to the recipient of the email.  After 1 year, Story Worth used to print all the stories together as a book. Abby wanted to get to know her father more closely. 


 Abby said, “I discover more meanings now. Seek more connections now. Don’t want to relive the regret I felt when my grandparents died. I do not want to miss the opportunity to connect with my parents.”  


Life becomes sweeter because of the bitterness of regrets.  We don’t realize how significant something is until we do lose it.  


It doesn’t happen to us again because of regret. Abby has a good relationship with her parents as she felt remorse over the death of her maternal grandparents.


Two types of regrets


There are two types of regrets. They are action regrets and inaction regrets.  Action regrets are about things that you have done.

While inaction regrets are about things that you have not done. 


What can you do about regrets?  You can apologize or correct your mistake to fix the things you have done.  You can think of “At Least” to mean “at least” to feel good. 


The first step is to undo it.  


Suppose you slapped your friend in the face or said something bad about a dead person at his funeral.  You may feel very bad for what you did.


Action regrets come from impulses, that is, actions were done without thinking, which we did because of strong emotions. 


On the other hand, Inaction Regrets are more abstract, that is, they are in mind. We do not have deep feelings about them. 


Like you regret not studying well in high school. But now you are over 20 and you can’t go back and become a teenager again.  This is an inaction regret.


On the other hand, some examples of action regrets are – cheating in your marriage life, bullying a classmate and colleagues or insulting a coworker or friends.


You can apologize here. By saying sorry, you can admit what you have done wrong. If the other person accepts your apology, then your remorse is reduced.  


You can’t change what has happened, but you can make the situation better by asking yourself questions. If you hurt someone, can you apologize to them or do something for them?  If you hurt yourself, can you fix it?  


Like can you start paying off your loans or work harder at your work?  If there is no way to fix what happened, there are other opportunities.  


Step second, say “At least”. 


This is the story. Daniel Pink ( who is the author of the power of regret). He has regrets. Why did he go to law school after college? Only if he had thought more about it or had taken some other route.


His first year of work doesn’t have to be that much struggle. But one of the good things about it is that he met his wife in law school. Daniel can’t go back in time but he keeps thinking “if only” to “at least”.  


We all include ” at least” in our regret story to feel better. Like me, I also think that ” I do not beat competitive exams and my seven years was a waste of time, but at least it enhance my reasoning and making decision ability”


“At Least” doesn’t improve our behaviour or performance in the future. But it does help us feel good in the present. Like many women in the World Regret Survey. Who said they regret the most about marrying their ex-husbands.


But these women also have things she could use as “At Least.” She said, “She regrets marrying that man but at least they have kids of their own.

At Least are like pain medicine. We can use them to avoid damaging emotions like excessive anger or depression. Look at the good side. Think about your regrets and what lies ahead. Complete the sentence with “At Least”


Regret Minimization Framework.


Jeff Bezos is the founder and chairman of Amazon.  He created a concept called “Regret Minimization Framework”. 

In 1990, Bezos was working in a financial firm.  He was doing very well and earning a lot.  But the internet was booming and they saw a huge opportunity to sell books online.  


Bezos told his plan to his boss. His boss gave him 2 days to make his final decision. Should Bezos leave his high-paying job and become an entrepreneur?  


This is how he thought of the “Regret Minimization Framework ”.  When he turns 80 and looks back, Bezos didn’t want to regret this moment of his life.  


He wanted to minimize his regrets. Bezos knew that he would later regret not using the internet.  Anticipating the remorse made it easier for him to make a decision. Bezos left his job and started Amazon.  


Regret Optimization Framework


Daniel made a slight modification to Bezos’s Regret Minimization Framework to create the Regret Optimization Framework. It helps us make the right decisions by anticipating our regrets.


There are four main types of regrets. They have been categorized according to the reasons behind them. 


Foundation regrets or regrets are associated with larger aspects of life such as health, education or finance.  


We need a sense of stability in life that’s why we need a healthy body, mind and financial security.  If we do not have these foundations then it will be difficult for us to achieve other goals.  


Failures that are due to health, education or finances cause foundation regrets.  Stability is important in our life but sometimes we also need to be bold and take risks.  


Boldness regrets those opportunities which we could not take advantage of.  Like not starting a new business, not following your passion or not trying to find your true love.  


Moral regrets are caused by doing wrong things. Normally we want to be a good person. But when we do something wrong we feel regret. 


Examples of moral regrets are cheating on a test, cheating on someone while in a relationship, or lying to your business partner.  


Connection regrets because of our relationships with our parents, life partners, children, siblings, friends, classmates or colleagues.  When we damage those relationships or fail to build such relationships, then we feel remorse.




Only man can make up the story of such events which have never happened. We can use the power of regret. To solve the problem of our life.

Regret is different from all other negative emotions. Because of this we compare the situation and blame only ourselves.  


Second, we learned why remorse makes us better.  Because of regret, we learn to improve ourselves, our decisions, and our outlook on life.  


Third, you learned what you can do about regret. You can either apologize or try to fix the situation and if both of these things can’t happen. 


Then you can see the good side of things.  Here are some tips for dealing with regrets, especially about things you’ve wanted to do.  Share your regrets with other people.  


Tell your story to people. You can also write a journal. Don’t punish yourself for this. Be kind to yourself.  Pay attention to what you have learned.  


Take a break and let yourself heal. We all have regrets, it’s part of life.  We hope this summary of the power of regret has made you feel better.  Move on from the past and learn from your mistakes.  Focus on what you are doing now so that you can reduce future regrets.




The reference is taken from the book. The power of regret: How looking backwards moves us forward.

About the author.

Daniel pink is also the host and co-producer of TV shows called “Crowd Control” coming on Auch Drive, To Sell is Human, When, the power of regret is the best-selling book.

His articles and essays have been published in big publications like ‘The New York Times and ‘Harvard Business Review’.

Best of luck.

Related story:

7 worst habits for your brain.


How to let go of your ego and make yourself humble?


How to build mental toughness in your life?

I am a common man, with the common purpose of life, defeat many times like everyone. But one thing which keeps me in the race of life. Never give up, continue, be patient, and be passionate. I believe in sharing. So, I start this blog with the purpose to thrive your mind and thrive your future. By giving motivational, personal development, mental and financial well being, relationship, habits and thoughts tips. Which I experienced in my life. Experience is the best teacher you can trust.

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