Counterfactuals and Career Development

Posted: September 21, 2015 in career, Gift of Self Career Services
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ready to increase your vocabulary (as in Readers’ Digest “Increase Your Word Power”)? Here’s the definition of counterfactual (n): a conditional statement the first clause of which expresses something contrary to fact, as “If I had known.”.

In his excellent book If Only: How to Turn Regret into Opportunity, Neil Roese describes the two directions wFail Hashtaghich counterfactual thinking can take, explaining why the Bronze Medal Winner at the Olympics is happier than the Silver Medal recipient. Even though Silver is #2 in the world in their sport, they focus up to missing the Gold while the Bronze recipient focuses downward to see what they have accomplished (I almost didn’t medal)!

Here’s the Career Application: this “downward” thinking causes the Bronze Medal careerist to be better equipped to learn, to develop insights, to challenge themselves to greater accomplishments, while the Silver Medalist (without the benefit of downward counterfactual thinking) may find themselves in a self-defeating “woulda, coulda, shoulda” spiral.

Let’s close with a few timely quotes on Failure:

“There are defeats that carry with them the radiant promise of coming victory.” – F.W. Boreham

“We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing. “ – Robert E. Lee

“Failure is always an option.” – Adam Savage, Mythbuster

“Make excellent mistakes.” – Dan Pink (via Johnny Bunko)

So, the next time you “fail,” think downward!

  1. bonneradavis says:

    Interesting. I just came in #2 in a long candidating process. I did spend time thinking about, “how close to #1 was I?” And, “Did I just miss the big one or was I just saved from a nightmare?” Guess I’ll never know this side of heaven.

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