Regret Minimization

Decision making 3 questions

Regret Minimization

Maximize your long-term happiness. Prioritize projects you will most regret not having pursued by the time you're old and looking back at your life. Advocated by Jeff Bezos.


Researchers have found that we tend to regret actions not taken far more than we regret failed attempts. 

Unfortunately, our brains aren’t wired to prioritize our future selves. Therefore we need to discipline our decision making process so we can be good to our future selves.

If you project yourself into the future and look back on your decisions from that perspective, it gets you away from some of the daily pieces of confusion. In this way, you can optimize for long-term fulfillment. 

Jeff Bezos used the Regret Minimization framework to leave his high-paying job and start Amazon.

In a 2001 interview, Bezos explained that leaving his successful career in banking to pursue his wild dream of building an online everything store was a tough decision.

After lots of consideration, he came up with the Regret Minimization framework: “I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, ‘Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have. 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. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision.”

Based on this, he went to build Amazon, and the rest is history. 

Later in life, Bezos used the same framework to prioritize working on his space exploration company and left his active role as the CEO of Amazon.

How to think with Regret Minimization

  1. Click “Start session”
  2. Answer the questions. Consider them as prompts that make you think.
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What decision do you want to think about?

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Looking back at your life at the age of 80, will you regret not doing this?


Yes – do it. No – don’t bother.

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— Orange Book