In my case I think regret is associated with fear of success and procrastination . Regret / expectations are the way for me to keep with the status quo. If I get something good, or if I work towards a goal I run the risk of loosing it or not getting it.
Just this weekend I saw a post on a FB group, where someone, on behalf of a friend, asked for tips regarding accommodation in my city. I noticed that I'll have a free room during that period and the idea of getting a few extra Euros crossed my mind. I though for a few minutes and resisted the temptation to delay the decision, so I posted a quick reply suggesting that the friend could contact me. For the following days I noticed myself checking my FB messages folder and email several times a day and with some anxiety. Then I found myself ruminating over the message I had posted: it could have been more precise in regard to my email, "how clueless am I
" and I could have include information about the location. Suddenly, I now realise that I stand to loose money. What started as an opportunity to earn some extra cash is now a source of pain and regret.
When I saw the message I was not counting on any monetary earning: I even had to convince myself to post a message. Meanwhile I got to expect a reward for my work. What started as a possibility was now an expectation. It makes no sense.
If I had not posted a message I would have earn....zero.
After posting a message I'm probably earning...zero.
All it took me was some 5 minutes composing a message and checking my email.
Yet my mind is punishing me for having made an effort. This is absurd!
This can be applied to so many domains, including career, dating, self-development, risk taking... In fact, this is pretty much my pattern: when I improve at something, my instinct is to protect those gains, make myself a comfortable position, rather than keeping on growing. that's the fear of success fuelling my procrastination. If I try to move forward my mind will beat the shit out of me at the first sight of danger.
Someone said once that when we sit in front of the tv and procrastinate we are still motivated. in this case to do nothing. Now I know what my motivation is and what is holding me behind.
I am not sure I am making myself clear or if this is getting through to you. To me, I had heard of regret before in another program, it took me a very painful experience last week, and the coincidence of listened to a chapter from the excellent "Thinking, Fast and Slow" while I was still ruminating over my regret. This is an extract:
Quote: Paul owns shares in company A. During the past year he considered switching to stock in company B, but he decided against it. He now learns that he would have been better off by $1,200 if he had switched to the stock of company B.
George owned shares in company B. During the past year he switched to stock in company A. He now learns that he would have been better off by $1,200 if he had kept his stock in company B.
Who feels greater regret?
The results are clear-cut: 8% of respondents say Paul, 92% say George.
This is curious, because the situations of the two investors are objectively identical. They both now own stock A and both would have been better off by the same amount if they owned stock B. The only difference is that George got to where he is by acting, whereas Paul got to the same place by failing to act. This short example illustrates a broad story: people expect to have stronger emotional reactions (including regret) to an outcome that is produced by action than to the same outcome when it is produced by inaction. This has been verified in the context of gambling: people expect to be happier if they gamble and win than if they refrain from gambling and get the same amount. The asymmetry is at least as strong for losses, and it applies to blame as well as to regret. The key is not the difference between commission and omission but the distinction between default options and actions that deviate from the default. When you deviate from the default, you can easily imagine the norm—and if the default is associated with bad consequences, the discrepancy between the two can be the source of painful emotions. The default option when you own a stock is not to sell it, but the default option when you meet your colleague in the morning is to greet him. Selling a stock and failing to greet your coworker are both departures from the default option and natural candidates for regret or blame.
I bet that if the study had included a third individual, who owns shares of company A but neglects to evaluate company B, he would be the one experiencing less regret of all.