Disappointment insurance

More often than I would like, I get myself into situations where a positive outcome for me depends on some choice of action by someone else. We’ve all been there, sad to say: “If only you would do this, it would be so great for me.”

In an ideal world, an outcome good for me would also be good for the other person, and everybody would end up happy. Alas, we do not live in an ideal world. I cannot decide what is good for somebody else, and it’s certainly not up to me to try. So sometimes I just end up disappointed and sad.

When my spidey-sense tells me I might be entering into such a situation, I often arrange a side-deal — one that is just between me and myself. If the sought-for positive outcome doesn’t pan out, I stand ready to reward myself in some other way, as a kind of “disappointment insurance”. This reward doesn’t need to be elaborate. It could as simple as treating myself to a movie, or buying myself a particular kind of fancy chocolate.

When I do this, I adhere to two important principles: (1) I plan this insurance ahead of time, before I know what the outcome will be, and (2) if the positive outcome does occur, I don’t give myself the disappointment insurance.

The net effect of all of this is that I’m not as focused on whether things that depend on other people will work out. Because no matter what the outcome, I’ll get something nice out of it that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

3 thoughts on “Disappointment insurance”

  1. Intriguing idea! I’ll have to try it the next time I catch myself hesitating to do something for fear of being disappointed. I imagine that the real benefit is not so much in dulling the unpleasant feelings of disappointment or sadness (if they occur) but more in getting yourself to do things that ultimately do work out but which you might not have tried without the insurance. And unlike most insurance, this insurance is free (at least if you don’t end up needing it).

  2. I’ve done that before!

    When I was applying to Hiroshi’s group in 2009, I had a deal with a friend that if I didn’t get in, he had to buy me a nice dinner. In exchange, if I did get in, I had to buy him dinner. Well, I lost the deal…

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