Opinion | Mariko Yugeta and the motivating power of regret

Yugeta shows what happens when we think differently. Her story follows the author’s research Daniel Pink, who used the early part of the coronavirus pandemic to help carry out a huge quantitative analysis of regret – a popular theme during that period. His website, the World Regret Survey, has collected more than 19,000 regrets from people in 105 countries.

Among the most common regrets people told, as described in Mr. Pink’s recent book, “The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward,” “did not pursue higher education (or did not take it seriously enough), rejected opportunities to travel, and missed last chances to get in touch with dear ones. ” Another common one: not to end a bad marriage. Mr. Pink’s results suggest that we tend to regret what we did not do far more than what we did. Psychologists call these “sorry for omission” as opposed to “sorry for commission.” For the most part, we regret playing it safe.

This is ironic, considering how far we go to avoid feeling remorse. All the efforts we make to avoid risk and discomfort can have the opposite of the effect we seek. Som Mr. Pink writes, we doze ourselves in exclusively positive emotions stifle growth. It is the negative emotions that drive us to change.

“We need lots of positive emotions in our portfolio. They should be more than the negative ones,” writes Mr Pink. The imbalance can hamper learning, hamper growth and limit our potential. This is because negative emotions are also essential. They help us survive. “

Mr. Pink’s results portray life as an endless decision tree in which we are forced to choose one path to the exclusion of all others. As explored in the recently released film “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, the result can feel like a multiverse of the lives we did not live.

Joshua Rothman discussed a similar idea in a 2020 essay for The New Yorker, “What if you could do it all over again?” “We have unlived lives for all sorts of reasons: because we make choices; because society limits us; because events force our hand; most of all because we are unique individuals and it becomes more and more with time, ”wrote Mr. Rothman. “Even though we regret who we have not become, we value who we are. We seem to find meaning in what has never happened.”

Yugeta told me about a branch point on her own tree. “When I was young, I wanted to go to the Olympics,” she told me. “The regret I had over not coming to the Olympics was that to get there you had to be No. 1 in Japan, and I was not.” She lacked a rival she would normally beat, and who eventually got the spot on the Olympic team that Yugeta coveted.

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