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Your regret may be holding you back at work. Here’s how to reframe it.

Here is a predicament many of us frequently face: How do you make the decision to do something uncertain? How do you know whether an opportunity is real or imagined and if it is real, whether it’s worth the risk? The truth is, you can’t know in advance of trying. That’s part of the uncertainty. But you can figure out if you should try.

When Jeff Bezos came up with his idea to sell books online, it wasn’t obvious that it would work. The year was 1994, long before the dot-com boom of 1999, and most people didn’t even know about the internet—there were only two thousand websites in the world (compared with almost two billion today). Hotmail, the home of most people’s first email address, wouldn’t be founded until two years later. Bezos had a high-paying job at one of the most prestigious Wall Street investment firms, and when he pitched the idea to his boss, investment legend David Shaw, Shaw agreed about its merits but advised: “it would be a better idea for someone who didn’t already have a good job!”

He encouraged Bezos to reflect for a while before making the leap. Bezos admits he struggled with the decision until he found what he called a regret minimization framework that made his decision “incredibly easy.” Bezos clarifies, “I knew that when I was age 80, I was not going to regret having tried . . . to participate in this thing called the internet, which I thought was going to be a big deal. I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that.” Then with emphasis in his voice, he continued, “But I knew the one thing I might regret was never having tried. I knew that would haunt me every day.”

Bezos wasn’t the first to come up with such a framework. Years earlier, researchers Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman argued that the one remedy to the biases introduced by maladaptive framing (i.e., framing that leads you to interpret an event in a negative way) is to ask “How will I feel in the future?” rather than “What do I want right now?”

Read the complete Fast Company article BY NATHAN FURR AND SUSANNAH HARMON FURR:

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