• Leila Ainge

the opportunity principle

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

Regrets, I've had plenty...


We often think of regret as being a negative or unhelpful emotion, and especially with social media full of narratives to live in the moment


''have no regrets''



“think positive!


Fast pacy, purpose-driven culture is

having a real moment, so it is little wonder that we try to push regret away.


The surprising psychology behind regret is that it’s a helpful reflective emotion. Regret helps us make better future choices and plays an important role in helping us to achieve long term goals by learning to delay gratification.


Try this, instead of thinking about regret as a melancholy sad emotion, reframe it as the opportunity giver. Many studies have shown that the things we regret the most are the things we can still act on. Roese & Summerville (2005) observed that the very reason regret usually persists is when the opportunity for positive action is high.


Education, followed by Career and Romance were highlighted as the most common life areas that we have regrets about


Since the original research was conducted, psychologists have been curious about the space between the regrets where oppportunity has been lost, and those with a future of opportunity. How can we help people who experience intense regret for example?


One technique known as dissonance reduction has been shown to help, by changing existing beliefs, adding new beliefs or reducing the importance of beliefs.


For example, if a career in a specific industry is important and someone feels regretful that the opportunity has been lost, it might be helpful to consider what is going on with that belief. Is the career symbolic of success, happiness, wealth or all three? What's the reality?


p.s Curious about your decision making style? Join me on a decision making workshop on September 22nd, where we will look at shortcuts, emotions and psychology to enhance your natural decision making







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