On regret minimization

The quest to reach our full potential is both fascinating and challenging.

Our fallibilities, such as fear of failure, can be a major obstacle. They can lead to regrettable decisions and unrealized potential. We make countless decisions in our lives, so some regret is inevitable. However, attempting to minimize regret seems like an important goal. Recent research suggests that people's most persistent and unresolved regrets come from not reaching their full potential.

The regret minimization framework, popularized by Jeff Bezos, can help us combat the challenge of deep regrets. It starts with a simple question: "When I'm 80 years old, will I regret not doing this?"

Here’s Bezos describing how he used the framework to decide whether he should quit a stable, prestigious job to start Amazon:

The beauty of the framework lies in its simplicity. It simultaneously cuts through all the noise, the fears that appear unsurmountable in the moment but fade away in the fullness of time, and encourages us to focus on what really matters to us.

I’ve used the framework to make several major decisions, including the difficult decision to step away from the startup I co-founded to take a sabbatical and focus on myself. When I imagined my 80-year-old self and asked if I would regret not giving myself the opportunity to explore my curiosities and get to know myself better, the answer was obvious.

I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than the things I haven’t done - Lucille Ball

Regret minimization, like any other framework, is not a cure-all. Consider it one of many tools in your decision-making toolkit, taking into account your personal values, circumstances, and your definition of what it means to live a good life.