A woman stretching her arms in bed to avoid regrets.

Do you know how to avoid regret? What is the best way to break bad habits that cause it?

To avoid regret, recognize and fix bad habits before they grow and develop further. Bad habits lead to the worst regret because they’re decisions that we make repeatedly over time.

Keep reading to see why forming good habits is so important.

Where Does Regret Come From?

We easily fall into habits that can harm us, and we regret it later. When we indulge our bad ideas repeatedly, we make the same poor decision so many times that a small vice becomes a harmful habit or even an addiction. Imagine making a habit of leaving major projects unfinished until the night before the deadline: You’ll likely end up letting your colleagues down and hurting your reputation at the office. Similarly, if you fall into the addictive pattern of spending hours scrolling through social media at night, you’ll find it harder to be present with your family and miss out on time with the people you love. These decisions seem small in the moment, but they add up to habits that are hard to break, and learning how to avoid regret requires an honest look at these cycles. 

(Shortform note: It’s surprisingly easy to form bad habits. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that every habit starts with a conscious decision you make to fulfill a need or act on a motivation. Over time, as you make the same decision over and over, your brain stores it as an automatic pattern of behavior, creating a habit. As Duhigg explains it, habits enable the decision-making part of the brain to work less, and this switch away from conscious decision-making can make habits challenging to break. Duhigg says that if you want to break a habit, you should figure out what triggers it and what function it serves. Then you’ll be able to see why you formed the habit and work to replace it with a healthier response.)

We tend to tell ourselves that we want something—to have a material object, to hold onto a relationship, or to keep indulging in a harmful habit—and that it’s OK to go for it, even when we know better. That’s because we’re great at deceiving ourselves.

How to Avoid Regret By Building Good Habits

Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

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