Which would you regret more?

what ifYou regret more the things you didn’t do than the things you did. No, really, you do.

It’s taken me a very long time to even begin to accept this.

Let me give you an example. When I was offered a paid internship that I was really unsure about taking, one of the first things I asked myself – and one of the first things many others asked me when discussing my dilemma – was which choice would I regret more?

Having worked, unpaid, for the company, I knew lots of the good things about them, but also lots of things I didn’t like so much. I’m very much drawn to variety and new things; I’m bad at commitment. And my expectations for a first job were too high.

I tried to picture myself in the role, and rightly or wrongly felt that I would regret taking on something which I felt so very little enthusiasm for. I knew the company was looking for someone to stay on after the internship and I didn’t want to take the position fully intending to leave after the three months and to be actively looking for other opportunities while in the role. I thought I would feel guilty. I thought that would be taking advantage. Except that’s what opportunities are there for – taking advantage of.

Yes, looking back my thinking didn’t make much sense. Even now I have to remind myself that companies don’t have feelings. You can start a job and quit in a month. It’s about you, not them. And you know what else, I might have changed my mind. I might even have grown to like it – first impressions can be wrong. But let’s keep this balanced, intuition can also be pretty accurate, it might not have worked out. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

I turned it around in my head and asked myself – would I regret more taking something with so little conviction, or would I regret more not taking a risk to continue to look for something better. Of course this is rubbish – I could have worked and searched.

We regret more the things we don’t do than the things we do, because it’s the not knowing that drives us crazy, not making a mistake. We can deal with mistakes because we can learn lots from them. All we can learn from ‘what ifs’ is next time,  just give it a go.

Looks like I’ve joined the rat race

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I started a new job last Monday. I’ve put off writing about it due to some initial uncertainties but I’ve come to the realisation that, whatever happens, taking it was definitely the right decision and a positive step forward.

I’d had an interview the week before – a very awkward affair involving going out for lunch with the three members of staff, before an interview back at the office during which I downplayed my skills on purpose in an effort not to get offered the job. Yeah, not sure what went wrong there either.. (And note to anyone in charge of conducting interviews: Having lunch with applicants, no matter how well-intentioned, is definitely not the best way to relax a potential employee before an interview.)

This is really what inspired my last, rather drastic, post about emotion/fear versus intuition. My intuition told me I didn’t feel very comfortable with the people, and I was coming up with all sorts of reasons why this job was another wrong choice and I should do something totally different, but after giving myself some time to think I realised that it was my emotions talking and I had nothing to lose. They wanted me to start straight away and said I can give it a try for a few months and see how it goes – the perfect offer for a commitment-phobe like me!

Before I started I was thinking that I’d do it for two months and that would be it – I’d carry on looking for the ‘right’ job and this was just another good bit of experience, but just over a week in and, dare I say it, it’s actually going quite well so far.

I dislike the 9 to 5, but I don’t yet dread it. There are some things that could be better about the job, but there are many things that could be a lot worse. It’s informal, there’s variety, and it relates to some of my interests (and there’s no uniform! Though sadly no working from home in my pajamas either).

One thing that really does scare me though is how fast a working week passes. And how much faster the weekend goes. I can see how easy it would be to get stuck in a full time job, feeling like there’s no time to look for alternatives and gain other experience, and letting the weeks, months, even years, speed by. But I’m determined not to let that happen. This job is just the start.

Emotions are scarily powerful

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They say we have nothing to fear but fear itself. This post is me admitting that up until now I’ve been making a huge mistake in the way I’ve been living my life: I’ve been letting negative emotions and fear dictate my choices.

I first started this blog in an effort to share my reading and learning on the process of decision-making, and a lot of what I’ve written about  is the question of whether to follow logic or intuition when making choices. I wanted the answer to be that it’s right to follow your intuition, to confirm that some of my past decisions were based on good solid intuition and not just fear and confusion – but it’s not, and they weren’t.

I’m not saying that these past choices were necessarily wrong, but I definitely let emotion get in the way of the decision-making process. I guess I dislike logic because sometimes it can go completely against feelings, and ultimately I want to feel happy. It’s scary how easy it is not to do something just because it feels uncomfortable in the moment – it’s surprisingly difficult to see past current emotions to a happier future.

There is something to be said for gut reactions (see my post ‘Logic versus intuition‘), but I’m starting to realise that my own gut feelings aren’t actually worth paying too much attention to! It’s all too easy to confuse discomfort and fear with a bad gut feeling.

I become irrational when I’m scared – I become defensive and make excuses, then later struggle to explain my actions. If you follow good old fashioned human logic then once negative emotions fade you’ve got something really solid to fall back on. Emotions aren’t permanent or fixed and, despite how strong they can be, they always fade.

A while ago I reviewed the book ‘The Chimp Paradox‘, and the more I think about it the more the model it teaches is perfect for learning how to get past fear and negative emotions. We need to remember that we can make a choice to act despite our emotions – fear truly is the only thing worth fearing because it stops us from making the most out of life.

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Rebecca Fraser of Career Avoidance 101 (a great blog – do check it out) recently wrote this post on fear, and I think there are more to come – I also love this quote on fear and courage.