The Regret-Test for Decision-Making


We all have to take decisions, all the time, throughout all aspects of life. The world of work is one of those aspects. In the office, the decisions we have to make could be big, or small. But, when we think “career”, our decisions become strategic, with long-term implications.

Whether you really know your “why” or not — career decisions are hard to make. Since I really believe that we are all business units in today’s on-demand economy, those decisions are equivalent to a situation where you, as a business owner and executive, have to decide whether to enter a new market, start a strategic shift, invest in new products, etc. Not easy decisions to make.

We all experience this in our career path, me included. We think, we research, we collect data, we analyze, we ponder, we consult, we sleep on it… And then, in the end, we need to make a decision.

As a marketer, the most basic and interesting thing I came to learn along the way is how at some point, more information and data does not help you make a better decision. In fact, beyond a certain point, more information just adds confusion. As any marketer will tell you, human beings are, in the end, emotional beings.

So, after all the research in the world, what do you do when it’s time to decide? Here’s a tool that helps me a lot — the regret-test.

“It’s better to regret what you have done than what you haven’t.” — Paul Arden

Simply put — go with where you would prefer to regret more.

Let’s say yo have an opportunity, and you could say either “yes” or “no”. If you say “yes”, and it turned out for the better, you’re satisfied. If it turned out for the worse, you regret. Same with saying “no”. If it turned out for the worse, you’re satisfied (as in: “boy, lucky me, how I escaped this trap”). If it turned out for the better, you regret (as in: “boy, I’m so stupid, how did I miss this opportunity?”).

Looking at the chart above, the green outcomes are a “no-brainer.” So, no need to spend time on them. But, if I told you that whatever you choose, you are going to regret – where would you prefer to regret?

I faced such situations many times, as I am sure you did too.

So, the way I look at this is the following:

  • If I end up regretting for doing it, how bad will it be?
  • If I end up regretting missing it, how bad will it be?

If you, like me, as you faced yourself in that moment of true self-honesty, told yourself that “If I say no and this succeeded without me, I will never forgive myself” — then as hard and scary as it may be — you have your answer.

About the Author
Assaf is passionate about promoting business in and with Israel, helping and mentoring entrepreneurs, advising young professionals with career planning and self-fulfillment, and more. Assaf acts as a brand ambassador of Israel as 'Start-Up Nation', speaking to thousands of businessmen, investors, entrepreneurs, young professionals, students and others, both in Israel and around the world. Assaf also works as a business development and marketing consultant to Israeli start-ups and others.
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