Types of Regret

In general, I find there are “two types” of regret. The first type I will “regret by action” and the second to be “regret by inaction.”

Regret by action is regretting a decision or choice I have made in the past. I regret doing x thing because it gave me negative consequences in either the short or long term.

Regret by inaction, on the contrary, is a regret caused by a lack of decision. I regret not doing x thing because it gave me negative consequences in either the short or long term.

Though nuanced, the distinction and definition of these two “modes” of regret is fascinating to me.

First and foremost, I try my best to live life without regret. Perhaps regret, then, is not the perfect word. What I am searching for is a phrase that describes a feeling of “I wish I had done something differently” or, better yet, “in the future, if I face this situation again, I will do something differently.”

So which hurts more? Which pains me more?

Regret by inaction, the latter.

I think what pains me most about this type of regret is the feeling that things could have very easily gone differently. All I had to do was do something — really anything — and things would have been different.

I could have texted x person.
I could have stayed up a little later that night.
I could have went out instead of staying in.
I could have said something.

I think the reminder I get from this “type of remorse” is that doing has been and always will be my antidote to regret. The problem, though, as I am learning, is that doing is both the cause and the cure for pain. More on that in perhaps another post.


Originally published at Jordan Gonen.