Woulda, shoulda, coulda….


When you look back on your life, is there anything you wish you could change? I know I do!

Most of us would say yes — and we’re not alone in that sentiment, according to a new Northwestern University study that categorized and ranked Americans’ biggest life regrets. 


“Regrets help illuminate mistakes we have made and allow us to learn from them,” says study co-author Mike Morrison, a graduate student in the department of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“The sting of regret can motivate us to make positive changes in our lives.” Among the more fascinating findings: Twice as many women as men (44 percent compared to 19) reported a love- or family-related regret; men were slightly more likely than women to have career or education-related remorse

Topping the list of regrets….Lost love

If you stop and think about the stuff of sad love song lyrics — the one who got away, the one who broke your heart, and the one you should never have gotten involved with in the first place — you won’t be too surprised to learn that 18 percent of people surveyed put a romantic relationship at the top of their regret list.

Want to keep your current or next relationship from imploding? Learn how to fight fair. “Avoiding conflict can be the kiss of death in relationships, but don’t vent anger toward each other [either],” says Christine M. Allen, PhD, a psychologist and a life coach in New York City. “Instead, use awareness of hurt and anger to express more directly and constructively your needs and concerns.”

Family related issues

Haven’t spoken to your sister since you lived under the same roof? The next most common type of regrets were family-related, which 16 percent of people reported. Among the more prevalent issues were disagreements or arguments that got out of hand.

“In many cases, people wished that they had resolved family issues sooner, if they’d been resolved at all,” says study co-author Neal Roese, a marketing professor at Northwestern University. It can be difficult to resolve conflicts with people we’re closest to, especially after a lot of time has passed. Consider family therapy if you can’t work things out on your own.

Education glitches

Wish you’d cracked the books more in college or gotten your act together to apply to grad school? The survey found that 13 percent of people had a school-related regret, such as not studying harder, not pursuing a different major in college, and not staying in school longer. Those with lower levels of education were more likely to have education regrets than those who went on to receive advanced degrees.

Parenting regrets

It’s not easy raising children, as admitted by the 9 percent of survey participants who regretted something related to their kids. “Several people said they wished that they had spent more time with their children, and that they should have been more or less strict,” said Roese.

Other common parental missteps: being too critical of a child’s behavior, not paying closer attention to schoolwork, and failing to recognize the signs of a serious problem, such as drug abuse or an eating disorder.

(Source: Everyday Health)

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