In a recent study, Neal Roese and Mike Morrison of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign randomly called 370 adult Americans and asked about their biggest regret.
Love-related laments, comprising 18 percent of all regrets, were the most common, edging out family, education, career, finance, parenting, health, friends, spirituality, community, leisure, and self.
While 44 percent of women picked romance-related bummers as their biggest regrets, only 19 percent of men chose the same. Thirty-four percent of men chose a career-related regret, compared to 27 percent of women.
Joachim Krueger, a professor of psychology at Brown University, told LiveScience:
There’s a general idea in research that women are more concerned with social relationships than men are. Men are more concerned with career and self-advancement.
According to Roese, men said they usually wished they had pursued a different career or education—one that satisfied them more instead of making them more money.
People who were more educated also had more career-related regrets, while those with less education had more educated-related regrets.
Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do,” but this study shows that this isn’t the case. There was a pretty even split between positive and negative regrets.
We all have regrets. I regret consuming ice cream this morning, knowing I’m lactose-intolerant. I regret calling my ex-boyfriend. And I’ll probably regret it when I get the Justin Bieber haircut that everyone is telling me not to attempt. But hell, these regrets create who we are.
“The bad [part of regrets] is obvious,” said Roese, “but the good is it helps us put our lives together, helping us to put things into perspective.”