The Worst Kind of Loss

In this month’s Influencers from Around the
World post we get the distinct privilege of hearing from Anthony McLean, CMCT.
Anthony is the only Cialdini Method Certified Trainer in Australia. His
background is unique, having spent more than a dozen years as a police sergeant
and an intelligence officer, he now uses the skills he learned on the job in
his study of behavioural intelligence, the role of emotions and most
importantly, influence and the science of persuasion. He’s currently the
Executive Director of NewIntelligence.
You can connect with Anthony on Facebook,
and Twitter.
Helping You Learn to Hear
The Worst Kind of Loss
We are all familiar with Dr Cialdini’s Principle
of Scarcity
and the notion that it motivates people to act to avoid losing something of
value.  As a universal rule that guides
behaviour, it is as prevalent in Australia as elsewhere around the world. 
But is all loss the same? 
A study found that 75% of people polled
said they experienced greater regret for the things in life “they did not do” over the regrettable
actions “they did do” (Gilovich and
A second study asked people between the
ages of 20-64 if they could live their life over to do something different
would they rectify a regrettable inaction or a regrettable action.
Overwhelmingly the study found people would rectify a regrettable inaction
(Kinnier and Metha).
Anyone who has experienced a situation in
which they did not act and later came to regret this inaction knows the
sensation of opportunity lost.  This is
opposed to the regret associated with a decision we have made but due to the
consequences that often involve loss we come to regret the active decision made.
Personally I know that I reflect
differently on the regret of not taking the opportunity to live overseas when I
had the chance, over decisions that I have made that later proved to be a loss,
such as when I sold a property for twice what I paid for it only to find out it
would double in value again within a few short years with absolutely no
improvements made.
When we add time into the equation we find
that people who were asked what their biggest regret of the past week was, they
were more likely to report things they had done. Those asked about the biggest
regrets over their life would report regrettable inaction, i.e., the things
they did not do.
An explanation for this is when focusing on
the present we are perhaps still in damage control, looking for ways to rectify
a regrettable action. Therefore in the short-term regrettable actions can be
remedied to some degree.  Whereas with
missed opportunities or regrettable inaction the opportunity is often fleeting
and difficult to recapture and therefore there may never be an opportunity for
a second chance. 
If you are considering an action but fear
the consequences, as part of your decision consider how difficult it will be to
reclaim ground through apologies, subsequent action, etc., if it goes wrong.
Then consider the consequences if you fail
to act altogether and ask yourself, “What are the chances of this opportunity
ever coming around again?”
If you get your decision wrong, you will
have an emotional event such as anger, embarrassment, etc., but this will fade
with time. If you fail to act and you later regret this inaction you are far
more likely to experience despair and other associated emotions that are more
likely to persist (Gilovich, Medvec and Kahneman).
Therefore in the words of Ekhart Tolle,Any action is often better than
no action
, because we can often recover from an action gone bad;
inaction can haunt us for life.
The caveat on this of course is you are all
rational-thinking people so actions and inactions in your life will be guided
by your own personal circumstances. A decision not to act is still an action,
so regret the action taken and learn from the decision’s failure rather than
ponder what may have been.
If you have not seen it I would encourage
you to watch the video 50 People: 1
Question Gallway Ireland 2011.
In this video participants are asked about
their biggest life regret and it is interesting to look at the regrettable
actions, inactions and those who say they have no regrets. If you’d like to watch
the video click
If you’re viewing this by email and want to leave a comment click here.  
Anthony McLean, CMCT
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