People are constantly forced to make big decisions about their life in the face of uncertainty that is impossible to reduce. Should I take this job? Should I buy this house? Should I move to a new city?
You try to make high probability decisions along the way, but in life, you don’t know the odds in advance. Life is messy so these things are never perfect. But Jeff Bezos promises a better way to make decisions without regret.
It all starts with a question: In X years, will I regret not doing this?
The idea is to project yourself into the future and look back on your decision from that perspective. For Bezos, he thought of when he would be 80 and if he would regret not trying to start this company. Yes or no. His answer was quite clear.
In a 2001 interview, Jeff Bezos explains how he made his decision to leave his successful career in banking to pursue his wild dream of building an online everything store.
As Bezos puts it:
I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried.
When you’re in the final season of your life, are you more likely to dwell on your regrets, or measure your success by the courage you had to act upon your unique wishes for life?
I love this for a few reasons. First, it forces you to think beyond the moment. Using the regret minimization framework forces you to think past the present moment. It can make all of your current fears and doubts seemingly irrelevant in the long run. Instead, by fast-forwarding your mindset into the future, you’re able to assess things from a greater perspective, which can help you see the decision from a whole new vantage point.
Second, it’s a model that can be used throughout your life, whenever you face tough decisions that rest on your shoulders. Having such a tool to leverage when you’re not quite sure what to do is powerful.
While the Regret Minimization Framework may not be right for you, understanding it is really essential. They help you take action, make hard decisions, and lead a life in line with your ideals.
But Bezos isn’t just saying you should always dive into every risky but promising new venture. Instead, he believes that his regret minimization framework can help anyone shift through their personal goals and values to make a weighty call.
“If you can project yourself out to age 80 and sort of think, ‘What will I think at that time?’ it gets you away from some of the daily pieces of confusion,” he claims.
If you’re facing a tough call in your life, it’s worth a try. You might also want to have a look at other people’s common regrets to help you avoid your own second-guessing, or check out other expert advice on how to make truly difficult choices.
Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself based on this Jeff Bezos framework for making life-altering decisions:
Have I minimized the number of regrets I have in life?
Will I regret having tried this?
Thanks for reading
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