Regrets and Remorse
First the difference between the two:
Regrets: Wishing you had or had not taken a particular action. It could be because it hurt someone else but also because it hurt you (in any way — financially, physically or emotionally etc.)
Remorse: Comes from true empathy for the pain the other person is feeling because of your actions
Whether we realize it or not, we all must have had some of these in our lives, especially regrets. Whether it is not buying the Bitcoin at the right time or taking or not taking a job or not moving city/country etc. And most of the time, we overcome the choices we made and we move on.
But then there are some actions or inactions that lead to remorse. Which stay with us for a long long time. Especially when you are unable to make amends. I have one from when I was ~ 12–13 years old. I said something horrible and hurtful to a friend of mine, out of rage, during a game dispute. I didn’t understand how hurtful my words were until later. I know now. And I know for many many years. I tried to find my friend to apologize but I couldn’t. Very likely he doesn’t even remember. But the problem is that I remember.
Regrets make us who we are. It is ok to make bad decisions which may affect us financially or emotionally. As long as we learn and move on or even if we don’t learn but move on. And of course we all want to minimize them.
Research says that dying people regret things that they didn’t do more than what they did. Which is fair and logical. Logical because you can create a story around what could have happened if you did what you did not. Like buying a bitcoin when it was $100 without realizing that most would have sold it at $200 and not waited until it was $50,000. Which would have led to another regret of selling it at $200 :). If you were lucky enough to hold it to $50k, I am sure, as of today, many would regret not selling it then. You get the gist.
When we regret, I think, we make a pleasant story around what could have happened. And it is usually the best case scenario. Although, best case scenarios seldom happen. Also, some of us have more regrets than others. And it is not because of misfortunes, it is likely because of how we look at life. By ‘how we look at life’ I mean — whether we love what we have or we love what don’t have. If the latter, likelihood of having more regrets is higher. What we need to minimize is Remorse. Fewer we have, the better.
Anyways, my point is, it is fine to have regrets once in a while. But we are better off when we love what we did, decisions we made, life we lived. Because even though we create stories around ‘what if I did this or that’ the reality is we usually think of the best case scenario and it may not have turned out the way we are imagining. Given the topic, I was thinking how best can we manage regrets. The ones we have. I have tried to categorize them and given some thoughts. See if it makes sense:
- Missed Opportunities Regrets: (I would call them not so important ones like not buying Bitcoin a few years ago) — I would avoid thinking of only the best case scenario and think of all the options that could have happened. If we will look at the options honestly, we will feel much better!
- Missed Experiences Regrets: We may have certain regrets in life related to things that we want to do but haven’t done so far as they do not conform to our values or conflict with something else. These are mostly one time ‘experience’ related and not really a ‘calling’. And we justify them with YOLO (You Only Live Once). I believe these are to be evaluated on a risk/return basis. If the risk is something that I am happy to pay for the return, I would go and act upon it. If I am paying a heavy price (e.g. hurting others, risking my future, career etc.), I think I would tell that to myself firmly. The regret hopefully will slowly disappear.
- (Missed) Actions Regrets: These are probably the most common ones. Regrets that we did or didn’t do something in a past situation. Examples: act against a bully in school or on the street, failed to help a friend in need etc. When we are thinking of what we did (or didn’t do) in the situation, we forget why we acted the way we did. Again we only think of what we should have done (the best case scenario). We forget about everything else that influenced the situation — example a brain freeze when you are bullied. We set very high expectations from ourselves. I think if we can sit back and think of the reasons why we acted the way we did, it might help to overcome such regrets. And maybe prepare us better for next time.
- Important Life Decisions Regrets: These are super important. But what is more important is to not to confuse these with the ones above. These are the ones that life reminds us of everyday. E.g. not pursuing your passion (career or a person or place) just to meet societal or parents wishes OR it could be about mending/breaking your relationship with someone but something stops you from acting on it. These are to be corrected. Or at least we need to have a plan to correct them. This is when thinking of YOLO becomes important.
- Remorse: Toughest ones. All I can think of here is to find a closure. If you hurt someone, go and apologize. If for any reason you are unable to apologize, put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Genuinely feel the hurt that you caused others and then forgive yourself…
Regrets — We will continue to live with them. What would be fantastic is that we die without any. If we can work to reduce them or eliminate them altogether during our lifetime, it will be a big win. Hope this helps to give some food for thought!