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December 12, 2006

Start Your Drinking

Because the lack of a hangover is killer:

Kivetz interviewed 63 subjects and asked half of them to recall a time in the previous week when they had to choose between work or pleasure — and then to rank how they felt about their decision on a scale from “no regret at all” to “a lot of regret.” Then Kivetz asked the other half to do the same for a similar decision five years in the past. When the moment in question was a week before, those who worked industriously reported that they were glad they had. Those who partied said they regretted it. But when the subjects considered the decision from five years in the past, the propositions reversed: those who toiled regretted it; those who relaxed were happy with their choice.

Kivetz also interviewed 69 students from Columbia University who had returned one week previously from winter break and found that as a group they were split in roughly equal numbers between regret and contentment for having worked or partied. But when Kivetz talked to alumni who graduated 40 years earlier, the picture was much more lopsided: those who hadn’t partied were bitter with regret, while those who had were now thrilled with their choice. “In the long run,” Kivetz says, “we inevitably regret being virtuous and wish we’d been bigger hedonists.”

On the other hand, the industrious set may end up in better jobs, with higher incomes, or a variety of other utility-maximizing outcomes. For instance: I spent a lot of time writing and blogging during college, and occasionally wish I'd forced myself into a more traditional college experience.

But I'm nostalgic for something I didn't want, and regretful about choices that offered me precisely what I did want. Had I liked partying with the people I knew during college, I would've partied with them more. And I adore my current job, life, and situation -- all of which are startlingly direct results of the choices I made during that period. Doesn't mean I don't watch an episode of Undeclared and wistfully wish I'd participated in a college experience I never wanted nor had access to, but those after-the-fact emotions aren't a good guide to what I should've done, at the time. Meanwhile, my current life is more college than college ever was: More late night bullshit sessions, more partying, more living in a too-messy house with a group of guy friends. And I guess, congruent with the good professor's research, I can't imagine how I'll ever regret this period.

December 12, 2006 | Permalink


Another excuse to unleash your inner libertine.

Thanks Professor Kivetz!

Posted by: Comandante Agi | Dec 12, 2006 12:19:52 PM

It's finals week for me.
No drinking until the last exam is done.

Posted by: fiat lux | Dec 12, 2006 12:23:26 PM

You risk alienating those who sacrifice (needlessly or not) and toil daily for their daily bread in much less enriching atmospheres (than you).

I decided at 15 (1973) that I would NEVER pull a 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' with my life and it's an enormous effort to chart one's own course, especially so if that's against the mainstream (about 80% of the time) or in contravention against 'authority' (100% of the time).

But it means (for most of us, ahem) less money and less professional advancement (this bucking of the system), and yet, it's been worth it (in a decidedly financial roller coaster kinda way) to maintain my objectivity (to end suffering, end desire) and perhaps a small slice of child-like (childish?) wonder...

Taking the road less travelled has a better view, but it's hard on the machinery...

Posted by: Russ | Dec 12, 2006 12:49:02 PM

...my current life is more college than college ever was: More late night bullshit sessions, more partying, more living in a too-messy house with a group of guy friends. And I guess, congruent with the good professor's research, I can't imagine how I'll ever regret this period. Good for ya!

Maybe you are also unconsciously prepping for the collegial life in shared housing quarters that the Dem. congressmen seem to enjoy. LOL.

Just be careful of the free meals, travel, and sports tickets that you might be offered by those demon lobbyists.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Dec 12, 2006 12:49:18 PM

This is another one of those "Well, duh" studies, surely. At least for students (and for many others), a week after having chosen leisure over work you're likely still to be suffering the consequences of doing so. Five years later, not so much.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Dec 12, 2006 1:13:41 PM

This reminds me of the opening of 'Sweat Loaf' by the Butthole Surfers:

"Daddy, what does regreat mean?"
"Well, son, the funny thing about regret is it's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't done. And by the way, when you see your mom this weekend, be sure and tell her 'Satan!'"

Posted by: justinf | Dec 12, 2006 1:27:48 PM

This is merely a matter of proficient scheduling of your time.

You want to scheudule your time five years ago to allow for lots of personal growth, while simultaneous scheduling your time one week ago for lots of productivity.

As long as you can continually roll over your re-skeds, you've got no problems.

I believe the rudimentary scheduling capabilities of Apple's iCal will handle the situation for most folks. But if you face more complicated exigencies, give a try to FastTrack Schedule,

It should be noted that using similar techniques, along with a clever FastTrack template, it is quite possible to live to be 300 years old.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 12, 2006 3:38:24 PM

It's entirely possible that there's a lot of rationalization in those "Yeah dude, I'm sooo glad I partied it up" answers.

That said, I have spent years coming to terms with disability and the fact that I simply cannot overwork myself -- I have about 1/4 or less the battery charge most people do, and a slower and more difficult recharge at that, and if I overspend I surely will pay for it later. But I also cannot sacrifice my leisure and fun time, or I will quickly become fatigued and unmotivated for the working times.

Balance is key. There's a time to work and a time to party. You have made the decisions you feel are prudent to allow you that balance, and there is nothing to regret in that.

Posted by: Amanda | Dec 12, 2006 4:05:42 PM

I'm glad I had lots of fun this semester even though I have to write about 13 pages in the next 13 hours.


Posted by: Wells. | Dec 12, 2006 11:01:57 PM

And then there are those first-semester freshman at "top tier" institutions neither having fun nor doing work. Well. This post makes me feel a little better about my plans to choose work in the future.

Posted by: Isabel | Dec 13, 2006 3:58:33 AM

Also, something a touch more substantive than my previous comment--I think the motivation behind working hard has a lot to do with wether you regret it or not. If someone knows, for example, that she wants to be a doctor, and she works her ass off to get to med school and winds up with a gynecological practice that lets her feel satisfied she is helping people, pays well, and leaves her with reasonable amounts of leisure time, I think she's less likely to regret that than someone who works ard because his parents want him to and goes into ibanking because he doesn't see any better options and doesn't like his job that he worked so hard to get.

Posted by: Isabel | Dec 13, 2006 4:08:29 AM

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Posted by: Eli Valencia | Dec 21, 2007 8:00:50 AM

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