New Research Reveals What People Regret Most of All: 5 Ways to Make Sure You Never Do |

Look forward and the path seems uncertain, the future impossible to predict. Look back, though, and all your dots seem to connect…except, of course, the dots that mark the actions you didn’t take.

Those dots? They don’t connect to anything–except regrets.

Research shows that more people regret things they didn’t do than the things they did, even if things they did turned out badly. (After all, with time and effort you can fix almost any mistake–but you can’t go back and do the things you dreamed of doing but didn’t…which means you can only think about how today would be different if you had.)

And now a new study takes that idea even further, probing the kinds of regrets we have about the people we don’t become, a natural extension of the actions we didn’t take.

Researchers focused on three things:

Our actual selves: The traits and abilities we think we possess; basically, who we think we are.
Our ought selves: The traits and abilities we think we should possess; basically, who we think we should be (think responsibilities and obligations).
Our ideal selves: The traits, abilities, and accomplishments we would like to possess; basically, our goals and hopes and dreams.
It makes sense that we regret not doing the things we think we are supposed to do: Working harder at our professions, working harder to be healthier…it’s natural to regret not working harder on things we ought to accomplish.

But research shows most people (72 percent) feel regret related to their ideal self as opposed to their ought self (28 percent). In fact, when asked to name their single biggest life regret, 76 percent of participants cite an action not taken that would have helped them realize their ideal self.
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