Study: Women and Men View Regrets Differently
by Scott Hyatt
I got a sad email this week from a friend who told me one of my old co-workers had passed away. I was shocked and nearly didn’t believe what I was reading. It was a surreal moment. The guy was young, probably in his mid-40s, and he seemed healthy. It’s not something you expect to read on your phone.
A few hours after reading that email, I started to reflect on our time together at work. This guy had a crass sense of humor that always put life into perspective. He had a sharp tongue that could release venom on management when the soldiers needed a lift or laugh. I wondered if he would have spent his final years at that small CBS desk if he knew that his time was more finite than anticipated.
This morning, I read a Northwestern University study that talked about what people regret most in life. Surprisingly (to me), women and men have different regrets. According to the study – titled “Regrets of the Typical American: Findings from a Nationally Representative Sample,” men regret decisions they made with their career while women regret past failed relationships.
“We found that one’s life circumstances, such as accomplishments or shortcomings, inject considerable fuel into the fires of regret,” the author of the study, Neal Roese said – a marketing professor with the School of Kellogg at Northwestern. “Although regret is painful, it is an essential component of the human experience.”
Roughly 44 percent of women said they regretted decisions they made with a past relationship, while only 19 percent of men cited romance as a regret. When it came to career, 34 percent of men regreted decisions they made involving their work while only 27 percent of women had those feelings. People who were not in a relationship had the highest level of regret when it came to relationships. I think that is because even as little boys, our success is measured by our toys, while for girls, their success is measured by the number of friends they have. Perhaps that’s why men have more regrets with their career while women regret those failed relationships. We never grow out of that.
I don’t want to sound like Dr. Phil, but life is fleeting. If you hate your job in New York City and want to be a farmer in the Midwest, do it. Pursue it. Chase it. If you want to be in a relationship, go on Match or start putting yourself out there. Tomorrow is not promised, which is why you don’t want to ever live with regrets.