Inspired living

Managing your most enduring regrets

Happy man jumping for joy on the peak of the mountain at sunset


Some of the biggest regrets people have is not being able to fulfill their dreams.

If you feel that way, then you’re not alone. According to a research out of Cornell University, our most enduring regrets are those that fail to live up to our ideal self.

The research is based on the idea that there are three elements that make up a person’s sense of self — the actual self, the ideal self and the ought self.

The actual self is made up of the attributes that the person believes they possess. The ideal self are the attributes a person would really like to possess. The ought self is the person they feel they should have been based on their duties, responsibilities and obligations.

Ideal self attributes are based on goals, dreams and aspirations and are more general — such as being a good parent — and are more difficult to fulfill as there are no clear guidelines.

The researchers surveyed hundreds of participants from six studies. They described the differences between ideal self and ought self and asked them about their regrets based on these descriptions.

The participants said they experienced regrets about their ideal-self more often than their ought self (72 per cent versus 28 per cent).

More than half of the participants revealed they had more ideal-self regrets than ought-self regrets when asked to list their regrets in life so far.

When asked to name their single biggest regret in life, 76 per cent of participants mentioned a regret about not fulfilling their ideal self or their dreams and aspirations.

The researchers explain that expectations of the ought self usually involve specific rules — such as how to behave at the dinner table. This makes it easir to fulfil them.

But ideal self attributes are based on goals, dreams and aspirations and are more general — such as being a good parent — and are more difficult to fulfil as there are no clear guidelines.

It all comes down to how people cope with these regrets. Researchers reveal that people are quicker to take steps to cope with failures to live up to their duties and responsibilities than their failures to live up to their goals and aspirations. As a result, regrets related to the ideal self are more likely to remain unresolved. This is turn will leave them more regretful.

One way to resolve this is to take the plunge and take action towards fulfilling your goals.

Although it is often assumed that you should wait for inspiration to strive for your goals, scientists suggest that waiting for inspiration is an excuse and by engaging in the activity you will be inspired to achieve your dreams and aspirations.

So go for it!

Source: Emotion


Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!