No regrets

by Admin
Updated: July 3, 2018

This is a very simple strategy to minimize mistakes and have no regrets in the future

Regrets are painful and can be self-destructive, yet it is human nature to dwell on the mistakes of our past. Unfortunately, a single regret can cancel out a wealth of goodness and our psychology doesn’t seem to work very well in the other direction. The most obvious answer is simply to make better decisions, but as answers go this is trite and really annoying - like we aren’t always trying to make better decisions? Well, we should continue to strive to make better decisions of course, but the key to avoiding regretting them is to remember we did the best we could at the time.

Regrets are enhanced because we tend to forget everything we did to avoid them and focus only on the fact that a bad result was what we got. We can even consciously choose to do this under the guise of taking responsibility.

Basic strategy

In order to protect myself from this, I’ve added a second step to my decision making process like this:

  1. Do the best I can with the information available.
  2. Remember that I did #1.

It’s pretty simple and it works really well.

Preparation

Sometimes it’s necessary to wing-it, but that is no excuse for being lazy. It’s always important to try to have as much information to hand as possible and this includes learning from past mistakes (“Fool me once, etc.).

We can all always do better at this, but being perfectly prepared is practically impossible. Once it’s time to make the decision, the information situation is what it is.

Decision time

Making the wrong decision is where regrets come from so it’s obviously important to try to get them right.

Taking that as read, I do three things to help me remember that’s what I actually did:

  1. Trust myself that I’m doing my best.
  2. Make a point of remembering that I’m doing my best.
  3. Imagine myself in the future, looking back, not saying, “WFT?”

Hindsight

Hindsight is perfect and we tend to beat ourselves up along the lines of, “If only I’d known at the time” on the basis of knowledge we didn’t have or recognize at the time. The greater the number or degree of better choices we could have made, the worse it is.

Even if I cannot recall exactly what I did or didn’t know at the time I made a decision, remembering that I did the best I could with what was available brings peace.

Repeating mistakes

If you trust someone and they let you down, do you take full ownership of that mistake? Do you give them a second chance?

Sometimes the decision wasn’t wrong, it was the follow-through that was at fault. Making the same decision again but with better support might be OK.

Some of the most painful regrets come from things you didn’t do and every second you aren’t deciding to do something you want to do is a decision not to do it. (Yuk, sorry. The same approach is still valid though.)

More info

An overview of negativity bias is at rickhanson.net and an in-depth investigation is at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

Some ideas of “Why Having Too Many Choices Is Making You Unhappy” are presented at fastcompany.com while the paradox of choice is questioned at pbs.org.

Info about Hindsight Bias at verywellmind.com and Outcome Bias at sas.upenn.edu.

“Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results” at quoteinvestigator.com.

Making the same decision again is actually making a different decision when outcomes are uncertain - “Making better decisions when outcomes are uncertain” at news.mit.edu.

“FOMO Addiction: The Fear of Missing Out” at psychcentral.com.

Internal links

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