We all have something we’ve regretted doing – or not doing – in our past. From passing up a fantastic career opportunity to hurting someone’s feelings, experiencing regret is a way for us to learn. It’s part of being human.

In the past, researchers identified that the two largest areas of regret for people of all genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, and physical location were education and career. It seems that most individuals feel they could have done something better, more fulfilling, if only they’d taken advantage of opportunities to advance their schooling and career options.

But a more recent study conducted by the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management shows that these are still the two biggest regrets – but only for men. Women are more prone to regret romance and family affairs. These gender differences are in line with most of what we already know about the priorities of men and women.

Regret As Both Positive and Negative

It may be surprising to realize that most people actually consider regret a positive emotion. While we usually group it in with other negatives such as fear, guilt, jealousy, or anger, regret seems to belong in its own category – negative in some circumstances but positive in others.

Regret can also be a negative force. Too often we belabor what happened in the past and relive those moments we wish we could do over again and again. If regret is affecting your life in a negative way, you need to understand why that’s happening and how to move forward.

For women, regrets that focus on past emotional situations can be very detrimental. At some point you must get over that first high school crush and learn to love the partner who is available right now. And after your kids are grown and gone from home is not the time to wonder how you could have spent more quality time with them.

Turning Regret into a Positive Force for Change

The good news is that regret can be turned into a positive force for change. Regret is the perfect mirror to show us what we did wrong – in what ways our actions or inaction went against our core values. And when we realize what we want to change from the past, we can use that information to behave more appropriately in the future.

Regret is all about choices. Sometimes we make the wrong choice. At other times we are mired in indecision and make no choice at all. In either instance, the results are negative because our core values are being ignored. Regret is our core values nudging us to be heard – and heeded.

For most women, going against the core values of love and family are those that hurt us the worst. Just like when we were kids and we had to learn that a hot stove would burn our hand, so do we need to learn as adults to stay away from those situations that cause us harm. But those experiences are also great life lessons to teach us how we can change our lives for the better in the future.

Once you’ve identified your core values, you can easily see how ignoring them is tied to past regrets. Use that information to move forward in a positive manner and prevent behaving in a way you will later regret.

Author's Bio: 

Lori Chance is a collaborative writer and editor specializing in how-to, informational, spiritual, and personal development articles and books. Her self-coaching book for women titled Who Am I? is now available through Amazon and her website. Learn more about finding out who you really are and what you really want, and receive the Top 5 Secrets to Successfully Change Your Life for FREE, by visiting her website and blog at http://www.authorshipforexperts.com.