Feeling regret is one of the worst things in life. I think it’s because of loss aversion – you had the opportunity in hand, but then it’s now lost. You had the chance to do something but it’s now gone forever, etc. Sometimes you regret doing something, but I feel like most of the pain comes from not doing something, personally.
When I make decisions, I sometimes ask myself: “Will I regret it if I don’t do it?” I think it’s a helpful framework for big and small things in life. A simple “will I regret if I pass up on this limited edition thing?” to a complex “will I regret if I gave up this business opportunity?” – it helps you to frame the other side of the picture, which is the loss instead of the gain.
As an optimist, it’s easy for me to see the upside of things, so I don’t need too much convincing about the positive elements of anything. Hence, this focus on regret helps to focus me on how much loss I’ll actually feel if I did or didn’t do something. (Interestingly, I’ve noticed that I almost never ask myself “Will I regret if I do this?”)
I believe a big part of not having regrets is focusing on present choices. As I wrote in “Ichi-go Ichi-e: 2020 is a Year I’d Like to Remember“, that once-in-a-lifetime moment happens constantly. Every moment in time is a moment that will never return in the exact same combination. This frames choices for us too – giving up on that moment means you’ll never get it back. Will we regret it later on?
I don’t always do this perfectly of course. There are still things I wished I’d started doing earlier, or wished I could have done better. But being mindful of the cost of regret makes me want to do things better. Obviously, with sun protection, that’s also a form of avoiding regret – don’t wait until it’s too late to fix sun damage, prevent it beforehand!
September 15, 2021