Do regrets lead to evolution?

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    Jenn Hourani

    Our culture gives us conflicting messages about “regrets”. On the one hand, we look up to people who live their lives shamelessly and without doubt or remorse; a “no-regrets” type of person. On the other hand, it’s a commonly held though that a person’s past, including the regrets it holds, are what shape someone. Is regret a good thing or a bad thing?

    Lori Deschene

    I think it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I don’t want to sit around stewing in regrets, as in, “I should have done that. If only I’d done that.” I don’t want to obsess about other choices I could have or should have made. But I also want to learn from things I could have done differently.

    So for me personally, there are two different regrets. The one I want to avoid is the one that binds me to the past and paralyzes me in the present. The one I embrace is the kind whereby I accept I made a poor choice, and empower myself to learn from that to make better choices going forward.

    Great question!


    Hello, Tiny Buddha Community,

    Jenn, this is a very good question, and I know each of us will have our own answer.

    I think regrets are natural and good. They bring with them opportunities to reflect upon our choices, change our minds, and perhaps even decide to choose differently the next time, for the betterment of ourselves and others. Regrets help us to learn, change, and grow. And that is good.

    I think many people get stuck in the muck of regret, even wallow in it, right along with shame, guilt, and anger toward themselves, without experiencing regret’s true purpose. Regret, like remorse, is viewed as a negative emotion when it can bring with it such positive changes.

    Regret, in its natural and good form, prompts us to think about our choices, acknowledge and own our misgivings, take personal responsibility for our words and actions, choose to improve our choices, and make amends to ourselves and others. Regret helps us to evolve into beings better than we were before. And that’s good.

    A while ago, I wrote a post about regret at my blog. What I know is that emotions are here to serve us – and I allow them to. Whenever I feel regretful, I purposefully allow regret to serve its purpose, to improve me, my life, and the lives of those around me.

    • Regret fully, even when it’s profoundly painful
    • Learn well, even when the growing pains are excruciating
    • Resolve and make amends, even when the other person rejects them
    • Grow and move on, especially when this means forgiving yourself

    It’s powerfully good, regret. Allow it to be.


    Vincent Nguyen

    Interesting question. When I think of no-regrets, I think of using my acknowledged mistakes of the past to propel me forward and grow. Regret is that feeling of being stuck on an issue that occurred and is over now but you never really learn or move on. In that sense, I live a life on no regrets because I use these opportunities to understand my mistakes, lack of actions, etc., in order to avoid them in the future.

    People may have different definitions of what it means to regret.


    I believe regrets do lead to evolution, only if you choose to learn and grow from them. I regret, but I accept. Not I regret, and I can’t move on.


    Gardenia, this is how I view regret, an emotion for learning and growing, one that brings me to acceptance. Thank you for explaining regret so simply and beautifully.

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