U.S. researches have discovered what appears to be “regret” in lab experiments with rats. In “Wired.com” a research team located at the University of Minnesota said they were able to substantiate that the observed behavior was actual regret rather than mere disappointment.
Regret, the recognition that different choices could have resulted in different outcomes can be destructive or instructive. If even rats can demonstrate regret what does that say about regret and the human condition? It seems that the feeling of regret is more prevalent than we once thought. Rather than deny any feelings of remorse we may be experiencing maybe the issue is really the length of time spent in regret and what we take away from the experience that is the discriminating difference between productive and nonproductive behavior?
Some people live their life living in the regrets from their past resulting in a continual cycle of thinking ‘if only I would have done this or said that rather than..’ and as a result seem stuck in the past. Their lives continue to replay scenarios of what could have been. Living in the past stops people from experiencing the joys of today and hopes of tomorrow. They live in “the waiting place” that Dr. Seuss refers to in his book. “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
On the other hand, other people experience regret but look at it from a perspective of what lesson they have learn from the experience. They live in today and dreams of tomorrow because they feel empowered to make better decisions for their lives because of what they learned from their yesterdays. Doesn’t it seem only natural that we relive moments or events when we were not at our best in an attempt to better control our decision making for the future? As long as we are aware of the amount of time we are spending in that place of review it can be a healthy, instructive thing.
We all have times – especially when we are sick, tired or stressed when mole hills look like mountains. Before responding or making a decisions at this point it is important to realize that we are not functioning at our best and try to avoid saying or doing something that we may regret later.
Let’s assume, however, that we do not heed our own best advice and say or do something that we wish we could undo. Often this happens from feelings of fear or anger. After all, we are simply human and bound to make occasional mistakes along the way. Rather than beat ourselves up over it or attempt to assign blame to others if we simply accept ownership for the error or mistake and offer appropriate apologies as necessary we can turn around something that could have become rather ugly into something meaningful – an “Aha” moment that makes us better, happier people in the long run. Regret in this example can mean that we have lived, learned and are moving on. That’s a good thing!
Our challenge is to learn from the experience and decide to handle the next situation a bit differently. We are all products of the choices we make. Everyday and in every way life has a way of testing us to become our best selves. Life is not for the faint of heart. We have chosen this life experience to become wiser, more thoughtful and productive human beings while we are on this planet. It starts with being brutally honest AND ultimately kind to ourselves and others as we learn our life lessons.
Have a great few days!
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