Thursday June 10, 2004

Small Regrets

This was a recent prompt on one of my online writing groups (I forget which and I lost the original). The prompt was

Talk About Small Regrets

Initially, I agreed with one list member who said "All regrets are large regrets". However, recently, I've found cause to have second thoughts.

Small regrets are regrets that don't last very long and don't really matter in the long run. Tonight, for example, I regret choosing the "Chocolate Seduction" instead of the Apple Crisp for desert. The Chocolate was good... but not wonderful. The Apple Crisp is always wonderful. In a few days, it will all be forgotten. That's a small regret.

Small regrets are also regrets where you're never really sure what, exactly, you regret. Small regrets come when the alternatives both have good (and bad) aspects to them.

Six months ago, I accepted a contract that I didn't really want, at a rate I considered much too low (50% lower than I thought was reasonable) at a distance of an hour from my house. I had been unemployed for over a year and the work didn't sound that bad... I turned down a phone screen (and possible interview) for a possible other job I wasn't sure about so I could take the contract. It was a case of "one in the hand is worth one in the bush..."

Halfway into the contract, I began to have feelings of contempt for the project. Five weeks after it began, the contract dissolved in shreds. And I really wished I hadn't canceled the phone screen with the other company!

I spent the next several months trying to get back in touch with that other company, finally did, was told the job was on hold, applied for other jobs they posted, sent followup notices, persisted, pestered... I finally landed a contract with them in May. I really wish I'd had this chance last Fall.

This may sound like it's building into a "big regret" but in fact, there's a twist. I may have been unemployed longer, I may have disliked the contract I took "under duress", I may wish I hadn't turned down the hone screen... but I got 6 months of delightful free time out of the deal. Every time I find myself regretting taking the unfortunate contract or not taking the phone interview I realize that I can never regret that 6 months.

Rich and I believe in the Principle of Least Regret". This is the Principle that comes into play when you're offered two choices and you make the determination based, not on which you would like more, but which you would regret least. For example, you're offered a 1-week contract in Detroit... in January... and you don't really ant to go out of town at all. If the contract pays $100 an hour, you might go anyway, because you'd regret turning down the money more. But if it doesn't pay much, you might say no, and not regret missing Detroit in January!

May all your regrets be small ones.

Small Regrets ( in category Memes & Prompts ) - posted at Thu, 10 Jun, 22:20 Pacific | «e»