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Big Decisions and Regret

Big decisions come our way every now and then. Should I spend the rest of my life with this girl? Should I move to a different country? Should I drop out of college? Should I quit this job and start my own business? Should I take a year off and travel the world? Should I take up that job that lets me work lesser hours? Should I take on a loan and buy that apartment? You can add a plethora of decisions more here.

Some of you might be able to make these decisions without a second thought. It might be obvious to go one way and not the other. If that is the case, then it isn't a big decision at all. It is a straightforward decision. There is no confusion. There is no weighing of pros and cons. You see only one road that makes sense to you and you take it.

But big decisions are of a different nature. They come with two paths of comparable pay-offs. Just that the profile of the pay-offs would be different. While one would have a fairly high probability of a reasonable pay-off, the other will have a fairly low probability of a high pay-off. And hence brings with it the difficulty in choosing one over the other.

But is the decision always made on the basis of potential pay-off? Is that all we are after at the end of the day? Or do we see the pay-off as an insurance against our vulnerabilities?

In the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Queen Margaery, while talking to the High Sparrow, says, "For years, I pretended to love the poor. Really, I had pity for them, but I never loved them. They disgusted me." And the High Sparrow responds, "They are hard to love. The poor disgust us because they are us. They show us how we'd look without our fine clothes, how we'd smell without our perfume."

For a lot of us, the pay-off we seek, the pay-offs that drive our decisions (big and small), are an insurance against this. An insurance against seeing how we'd look without our fine clothes and how we'd smell without our perfume.

Yet, seek out the ones who are on the other side of these decisions, the ones who have made their decisions one way or another, and hear them out. Nearly all of them speak of regret. You can talk to successful entrepreneurs, you can talk to rich businessmen, you can talk to failed artists, anyone in fact, and the regret they speak of is not doing their bit to make connections with other people. The regrets are about not valuing friendships, not cherishing their relationships, not spending enough time with the people they love(d). Rarely do you hear someone speak of regret for not having made more money (even the poor ones don't say this), not having bought another house. The regret is always about not enhancing connections with the people they care about and having said no to radically new experiences.

We're all survivors. We'll find a way to earn enough to feed ourselves and put a shelter over our heads. We don't need this kind of insurance. Make your big decisions such that you won't regret not having taken the other path once you are on the other side. Don't leave room for a 'What if...' Because if it is indeed a financial (or any other) compulsion leading you to a decision, then it is a straightforward one to make. You don't have a choice.

But when you do, choose the one that you would regret leaving behind when you look back on it years later.

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