Regret: A Product of Inaction, not Action
We’ve all been there: you’re tasked with making a decision, regardless of how trivial it is, and you have to choose quickly. Instantaneously considering opportunity costs and the way that this next decision will affect future decisions, a “yes” or “no” must be offered (obviously not all decisions are as linear as yes or no options, but the logic still applies). The problem with choosing “yes” or “no” is our motivations aren’t necessarily driven by our greater intention; fear, embarrassment, loss and risk are often times weighted heavier than opportunity, guidance and reward.
As an undergrad student, grad student, young professional and seasoned professional, there are defining moments that will change the trajectory of the type and degree of our successes. Of course, these are driven almost solely by the decisions we make – whether they’re passive or active. Some look to capitalize on a string of several decisions, banking on a future built on the idea of “slow and steady wins the race.” Others metaphorically “put it all on red” and let the chips fall where they may. Regardless of how someone tries to create their own success, action is not only necessary, but required.
For those that have known me for any extended amount of time, they may have heard me express the following thought: when you’re faced with two decisions, consider the outcome of both with relation to the amount of expected regret for each alternative. Choosing the option that limits the amount of regret is most often the correct decision to make. Now that’s obviously not verbatim of what I actually say and I express it much more clumsily when saying it out loud, but this seems like common sense, right? I mean, why choose regret when you could choose satisfaction?
Well the answer is simple as we return to the first section of this particular blog post. Fear, embarrassment, loss and risk are just a handful of things that discourage us from acting out of a mindset grounded in success versus comfortability and content.
An example: You’re at a networking event surrounded by people you have never met in a place you’ve never visited. Another place we’ve all likely been. The thought alone is enough to produce nervousness. Even though being placed in a room with other successful professionals could benefit any one of us more than we would probably assume, we keep the possible downfalls front and center as we consider starting a conversation with someone we know could lend a hand in each of our professional journeys. A stutter, saying the wrong thing or intimidation can be debilitating. Pairing these thoughts with the idea that you’re unsure of what you specifically have to gain from reaching out and talking to someone is enough to make the decision pretty easy to stick to the walls of the room and navigate with caution.
But what if I were to tell you that you had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from sparking up a conversation with a stranger at networking event? And not just any stranger; a stranger that most likely works in the same geographical area, potentially the same industry you work in/would like to work in or a related one, and someone who just might have a plethora of knowledge relating to something you have a deep interest in.
The thought of that immediately makes me regret not taking advantage of opportunities like these I had in undergrad. Time and time again, since the UW-Stevens Point MBA program encouraged me to make the conscious decision to proactively ask questions, introduce myself, be vulnerable and occasionally embarrass myself, I’ve reaped the rewards of making new connections and learning something valuable. After all, endless knowledge overcomes endless fear.
After recently earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance, insurance and real estate, Kevin Ile began his career as an accountant at Legacy Accounting and Financial Services in Stevens Point. Since beginning the program, Kevin has transitioned into a new role as a commercial credit analyst at Prevail Bank. He is also currently acting as a graduate assistant for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point MBA program.