Simplify Decisions With The Regret Minimization Framework

Simplify Decisions With The Regret Minimization Framework
Photo by Oliver Roos / Unsplash

In our journey through life, you will come across forks on the roads in which you have to make a decision that could have a noticeable impact on the trajectory of your life.

A mental model you can apply to help make the decision process easier is the Regret Minimization Framework.

Jeff Bezos popularized the Regret Minimization Framework. He used that framework to help him decide to quit his high-paying job and take the risk to start what is now known as Amazon.

He noticed that the internet looked like it was going to be a big deal and wanted to be one of the first people to take advantage of the promising influence the internet would have on society.

To apply this mental model, look at your current decision situation through the lens of your 80-year-old self version, looking back at this moment. Through that perspective, you ask yourself which decisions you would regret if you didn't take.

Applying this way of looking at the situation helps you focus beyond your fears and doubts at the moment and make a better decision, enabling you to live your life fully instead of always playing it safe and mediocre. It helps you live true to yourself and what you care about and value.

"I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn't regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried."

- Jeff Bezos

Personal Example

As I was getting ready to graduate from university with a degree in mechanical engineering, I was fortunate to have two full-time job offers from two different companies.

I had one from the company I was already interning at, a natural gas utilities company. I received a second one from an aerospace and defense company I had wanted to work at since I started university.

I applied the Regret Minimization framework to determine whether to stay at the natural gas utilities company or accept a job offer I received from the aerospace and defense company.

I already had experience working at the natural gas utilities company as an intern and liked working there. The work was interesting, and I got along with the people I was working with.

I was nervous about switching jobs to the aerospace and defense company since I had heard the aerospace industry is cyclical in that they do layoffs from time to time. I never heard that about the utility companies.

At first, I was set on staying at the natural gas utility company. Still, after thinking about it some more and applying the regret minimization framework mental model, I decided to take the risk and switch over and accept the job offer from the aerospace and defense company.

I might not get the opportunity again or anytime soon to work in that industry, and that is a company that I had been trying to get an internship for throughout college but could not. And now that I am graduating, I can work at that company.

I didn't necessarily project myself to age 80, but a couple of months from that moment thinking if I would be thinking "What ifs" about taking the aerospace and defense company position instead of staying at the natural gas utilities companies. I answered yes and didn't want to live with that regret, so I decided to switch companies.

I am glad I took the risk and switched companies since I have always been interested in the aerospace industry. It was stressful at first, but then I got used to it, have learned a lot, and have met many great people in this company.


Through our journey through life, we have to make tough decisions that may impact the trajectory of our lives.

During these moments, it is helpful to have mental models such as the Regret Minimization Framework to help us look at the situation from a different perspective and make a more intentional decision to help us live a life true to ourselves and not clouded by fears and doubts.