The 'potential' bias

Potential is seductive.

Potential represents future opportunity that could perhaps bloom into something beautiful. It's exciting to fantasize about what could be, if only certain conditions are first met.

An enjoyable dream is an imagined reality where your most desired potential scenarios are realized. All the 'what ifs' equate the way you want them to, for once. Spending time thinking about potential feels a lot like dreaming.

We run potential simulations through our minds constantly. It's a necessary part of taking action: the potential upside of our next action must outweigh the potential downside, else we won't move.

The truly seductive potential exercises are the ones where we edit the past or future to accommodate our desires. We remodel our decision tree to fit the reality we wish we had and bask in the improbable glory of that unlikely situation.

No matter how unlikely the situation, we still derive crumbs of authentic joy by thinking about how things could have played out.

If I took my earbuds out 10 seconds earlier and noticed her phone slipping from her hands, I could have lunged forward and caught it. I could have been a hero...

The shower is a popular place to cycle through different realities that could have taken place earlier on in your day, if only you had said X, done Y, or considered Z.

This kind of reflection is healthy. Reviewing our decisions is a sign of productive introspection. However, there is a bias influencing this process we should be aware of such that we don't become overly critical of ourselves.

When we daydream about unrealized outcomes that could have happened if only, we tend to look at things we could have done better. We rarely think about all the good actions we've taken that could have been gone worse.

It's much more natural for us to imagine how we could have done better than it is to imagine how we could have done worse. That doesn't seem fair, to ourselves.

Stay feeding your imagination but also be mindful of your bias to only imagine what could be better. The scenarios you routine handle in a 'good enough' manner don't show up in day dreams.


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