May 6, 2017 – No Regrets

Regret: feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity)

I’ll start today by repeating a simple point I’ve made here before. Don’t let shoulda, coulda, woulda influence your mindset. Those three words (slang as they might be) can bring you down in ways you can’t imagine. Today’s post is about a way that regret can sneak into out mindset and dominate even positive choices we’ve made. This phenomenon is known in psychology as the simulation heuristic and was discovered by the team of Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman as described in the book “The Undoing Project.” It goes like this: When we have a choice or choices that are not binary (e.g. good vs bad, right vs. wrong) but instead present gradations of a quality, we will subconsciously assign positive value to all the choices and eventually regret the one(s) we didn’t make. Here’s an example: When we’re deciding where to take a vacation, we might ponder the choices of Florida, California, Hawaii or the Caribbean. All of these choices are sunny locations with sandy beaches, great food and lots of entertainment options. Essentially, they are very similar choices and should result in the same amount of relaxation and joy regardless of which we choose. Let’s say we choose Florida. According to the simulation heuristic, if we spend too much time thinking about the positives of each of these locations, we will return from our Florida vacation wondering what it would have been like to have spent our vacation time in Hawaii, California or the Caribbean. This heuristic can be taken to the extreme in which we will no longer have positive memories about our vacation because of the regret we feel in not having chosen the other, similar options.

Here’s my advice. Don’t spend too much time researching all your options. Pick something and put all your energy into making that the best choice you can. As one of my coauthor’s previously wrote, be present in the moment and don’t think about what else you coulda, shoulda, woulda done or chosen. That’s wasted energy and sadly allows our subconscious to control our heart…the strongest muscle in your body and the center of your passion.

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