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#16: What do you regret?

#16: What do you regret?

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Welcome to another Motherf*ckin’ Monday email, the only weekly newsletter that liked your favorite band before they were cool. Each week, I throw three interesting ideas at you that (hopefully) make you less of an awful human being. This week, we’re talking: 1) how to deal with regrets, 2) how “meaning” has become trendy, and 3) how many ideas can strangely be both wrong and right at the same time.

1. How to Get Over Your Regrets – For years, readers have been asking me to write about regrets–what they are, why we have them, how do we get over them, etc. And for years, I’ve avoided writing that article in fear that I would screw it up and never be able to get over it. 

(Okay, that was a lame joke… I regret writing it.)

Seriously, though, most of my work is written because it’s something I’ve struggled with myself and by writing about it, I’m leading myself out of the maze of my own mind. But for whatever reason, throughout my life, I seem to have had immunity to regret. Of course, I’ve made mistakes, missed opportunities, hurt people unnecessarily, fucked many things up royally. I’ve made cringe-worthy decisions and stuck my foot in my mouth so many times that I’ve developed incredibly nimble hip flexors. 

But regret? For some reason, it’s just not something I do. Everything I’ve done wrong in the past is still part of what makes me who I am today, so why would I ever regret who I am today? That’s like shooting yourself in the foot to prove to yourself that you’re bleeding. 

People ask me all the time if I’ve “mastered” what I write about. “Fuck no!” is usually my answer. Most of the stuff I write is because I am screwing it up too. But this one was a bit different. In this one, I tried to deconstruct what I already do. Hopefully, the benefit is still there for you. Check it out: 

Read: How to Overcome Regret

2. Meaning Is the New Black – In my last book, I killed a lot of trees explaining how modern life and technology complicate our ability to find meaning and significance. What I didn’t get into is that a lot of what is becoming trendy or “cool” today in our culture is largely based on finding that  sense of meaning. 

Whereas the fashions of previous generations featured pointless excess and superficial consumption, the leading trends today are largely based on finding some greater sense of meaning and purpose in this confusing and contradictory world. 

I wrote another article breaking down these trends and why they’re important. Check it out: 

Read: The Great “Meaning” Trend 

3. Not wrong, but not quite right either – In last week’s newsletter, I discussed a massive meta-analysis of growth mindset interventions that showed little to no benefits. It is, by far, the largest sample size of any growth mindset intervention I’ve come across.  

To my surprise, this ginned up quite a bit of controversy. Many people sent me other studies showing that growth mindset interventions did have a large effect. But these studies were far smaller sample sizes (hundreds or only a few thousand people). Others pointed out that it was likely the interventions that sucked, not the concept of growth mindset itself–i.e. you can’t just tell people to have a growth mindset and expect them to have it. Other people thanked me profusely, as they had, themselves, been forced to sit through hours of “growth mindset” training and believed it was pointless. 

But I feel like my main point got lost in the fray. It’s not that growth mindset is bullshit or that it’s ironclad truth. It’s that it’s somewhere in between, and that’s frustrating as hell. Here you have a great concept with great research behind it, and then when you try to apply it with real people and the real world, not much happens. 

Last year, I wrote a large article about self-esteem and how the idea that we all just need to feel good about ourselves turned out to be far more complicated than researchers expected. My sense is that the growth mindset is going through a similar process at the moment. It appears to be a great descriptive concept, but as with self-esteem, its prescriptive elements appear to be far more complicated than we expected.  

There are few things in this world that are either completely wrong or completely right—especially when it comes to human psychology. With most human knowledge, we seem to be hopelessly relegated to the murky middle. 

Stay skeptical. And see you next week,

Mark