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Do less of things you'll regret

·3 mins

There’s a famous phrase, “Do more of what you enjoy”. A slight inverse of it should be paid attention to more, “Do less of things you enjoy that comes with delayed regret”

As much as joy is subjective, it is also momentary. The regret from the thing usually last longer than the joy you got out of it. Worse, it retroactively erases the earlier joy you had.

Another parallel saying along this sentiment is that you should “Do things that you’ll regret not doing”. Often touted for when you are hesitant to try something new. This is in a way aligned with the titular statement. Both are to minimize regrets.

So, if you should do something because not doing it will result in regret, the same should be applied to things that you want to do, but by doing it, you will regret it.

Say you wanted to quit a job for “something new”, instead of just thinking would you regret not trying that “something new”, think also would you regret if you had stayed (irrespective of the next step).

The two added views would enhance the things you are evaluating.

Think of the mood as a flat line. If the enjoyable things give it a crest, but if you know it usually leads to a trough, you are better off sacrificing the earlier spike. And the troughs are usually deeper and wider than the crests.

Say you’re on a strict diet and want to set it aside for a moment for something oily and fried. You would think it gives you joy (it should’ve, hence why this diet is “Strict”).

But instead of just thinking if you’ll enjoy this (as you do), you should then factor in the regret of slipping up that will follow into the calculation and decide if it is worth it.

If sleeping for another 30 minutes will yield a couple of hours of worry later on, it is a poor trade.

Unfortunately, chasing the “crests” are more glamourized than avoiding the “pits”.

I think we prioritize momentary joy more because the joy we get from it is visceral, immediate, and thorough. While the consequence of it is delayed, not certain, or clear. The lack of high (same as lack of low) is flat, which is already a default for many. And we always are driven to be away from the default.

If you’re evaluating something, don’t just include “Would I enjoy this” as a standalone, but incorporate your later-stage feeling of the same thing into the evaluation.

Minimizing worry is as much effective as chasing fun.