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A fear of regret can lock us into bad relationships, jobs and habits - here's how to break free

The science of regret

Regret is important in our lives because it facilitates the process of learning from our mistakes and avoiding repeating them.

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A fear of regret can lock us into bad relationships, jobs and habits - here's how to break free

A fear of regret can lock us into bad relationships, jobs and habits - here's how to break free

http://theconversation.com/a-fear-of-regret-can-lock-us-into-bad-relationships-jobs-and-habits-heres-how-to-break-free-111115

theconversation.com

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Key Ideas

The fear of regret

Being afraid of regret is a powerful driver of maintaining the status quo in our lives.

The “disposition effect”

It's a bias related to money and it describes how investors hold on tight to losing assets. The driving force behind this behavior is our fear of regret.

It shows we are very hesitant to sell an asset at a loss and we tend to hang on to it as it keeps dropping in value, hoping it will pick up again.

The “sunk cost bias”

When starting new projects, we tend to have high expectations of them doing well. We put a big amount of effort into them and even if see they don't go that well, we still choose not to opt-out. Instead, we hang on them longer, because we feel regret of leaving a project before it materializes.

We therefore fall into the trap of irrationally hanging on to it in order to avoid regret temporarily. 

Love and the "sunk cost bias"

Too many people hang on to relationships that they well know are going nowhere.

Ending a relationship puts us in the situation to admit we have made a mistake and it makes us experience regret. So to avoid regret, we convince ourselves that as we have come so far with the relationship, we should give it another chance, despite knowing there hardly is any hope.

The science of regret

Regret is important in our lives because it facilitates the process of learning from our mistakes and avoiding repeating them.

The brain and regret

Brain imaging helped identify the neural circuits that are involved when we feel regret.

A substantial activity is taking place in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory. Also,  experiencing regret and being scared of feeling regret involve very similar neural circuits – indicating that fearing regret is actually practically the same as experiencing regret. 

Loss aversion

It's our tendency o focus on losses rather than gains. 

That makes people who are more prone to feel regret less likely to take risks.

Tackling fear of regret

  • Start by assessing how regret really is affecting you.
  • Always be aware that while making a change always involves a risk it is equally risky to do nothing.
  • Remember that regret keeps us tied to the past.
  • Seek help and allow yourself to be advised by others.

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Status quo bias

Status quo bias

Status quo bias is when we prefer that our environment and situation should remain unchanged.

The bias has the most impact in the area of decision-making, as we tend to pre...

Common Explanations for Status Quo Bias

These explanations are all irrational for preferring the status quo:

  • Loss Aversion: When we make decisions, we weigh the potential for loss more heavily than the potential for gain.
  • Sunk Costs: We continue to invest resources like time, money, or effort into a specific endeavor just because we are already invested, not because it is the best choice.
  • Cognitive Dissonance: In decision-making, we an option as more valuable once we have chosen it. Considering an alternative can cause cognitive dissonance.
  • Mere Exposure Effect: It states that people prefer something they've been exposed to before.
  • Rationality vs. Irrationality: We may choose to keep our current situation because of the potential transition cost of switching to an alternative. It becomes irrational when we ignore choices that can improve a situation because we want to maintain the status quo.

Status Quo Bias examples

  • When offered several sandwich options, individuals often choose a sandwich they have eaten before.
  • In 1985, Coca Cola reformulated the original Coke flavor and started selling a "New Coke." Although blind taste tests found many consumers preferred New Coke, consumers continued to buy Coke Classic. New Coke was discontinued in 1992.
  • In political elections, the current candidate is more likely to win than the challenger.

Sabotaging behaviors

  • You are controlling and rigid in the way that others should treat you and are easily disappointed. 
  • You have issues with real intimacy. 
  • You tell yoursel...

Examine your history

This goes back to your childhood. 

For example: if you’re drawn to the excitement of meeting and starting a relationship with someone who has a lack of morals, character and is untrustworthy, try to find out about how your parents’ unhealthy habits have affected your choice in partners.

You are part of the problem

If you have a fear of abandonment and rejection and you are constantly ‘setting’ up scenarios that lead to your disappointment, you are the puppeteer controlling this. 

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Prepare for rejection

Always have a rejection-processing protocol in place. Debrief with personal and professional support people who can empathize and appreciate your experiences without passing judgment, criticizing o...

Find the blessings in rejection

In many cases, rejections are blessings in disguise. Maybe you don't want those customers that rejected your product.

Refer and direct those customers to your competitors that fit their needs. They certainly would not forget the lengths you went to. Such service is rare.

Feed your growth mindset

You might initially doubt yourself, question your competency and your self-worth but after you have weathered the storm, activate your growth mindset and start asking questions: 

What can I do differently? What have I discovered about myself? What changes can I make? What will I do differently next time? 

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