Intentional Practice: Regret Analysis

Life is a laboratory. In life, as in science, it is important for us to recall, respect, and learn from our negative results.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Your biggest regrets contain a storehouse of wisdom — perhaps some of your most important discoveries — yet you still must dare to explore them. – James Shelley, Regret Analysis: The Retention of the Past

As I analyze my own regrets, one of my biggest  is that I have not saved more money; or, another more common variant of this regret – I should be better/smarter with money than I have been to date.

When I review the choices that have led to me a place where, realistically, my savings are not robust enough given my age, I see that I have made monetary choices based on short-term gratification rather than long-term gain. I have suffered from an inability to recognize the long-term consequences  of a short-term shot of the buying anything drug.

(As a friend said to me recently, “the anticipation has always been, and probably always will be, more rewarding than the thing it self.”)

With regret, there has been for me an unproductive self-flagellation. That allows me to me to beat myself up – which proves that I am a good person because I beat myself up when I am bad. But it also keeps me from changing. The self-flagellation becomes the action.

But as James Shelley points out in his essay, bad choices “are experiments through which we learn.” Indeed, I can vouch from my own experiences that spending in the moment will lead to a rather tiny savings account.

So as a defense against future regret, this year I intend to save more of my income, such that by the end of 2012 I will be saving, on average, per month, about 60% of my income. At the end of 2012 I will review what new regrets I may have generated during this experiment. Wish me luck!

What does regret analysis bring up for you?

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1 Comment

  1. Jay said “The self-flagellation becomes the action.” Man oh man, I need to listen to this!
    I never realized this before but I am prone to this flaw. Thank you for stating this clearly.

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