People want to be successful, but it is never enough.
We should be happy with winning or accomplishing a goal. But instead, we wonder about “what might have been.” So, in fact, we often feel worse after winning.
A 1995 study of Olympic medalists showed that bronze winners are happier than silver winners. The bronze medalist is happy to have received a medal. The silver medalist, however, is often disappointed at having not received the gold. “What if I had won a gold? I was so close!”
The study by Victoria Medvec and colleagues Scott Madey and Thomas Gilovich explains that the ”what if” alternative for a bronze medalist would be winning nothing. But for a silver medalist, the alternative is winning the gold.
If we understand this concept, perhaps we can catch ourselves and avoid this negative tendency.
Do you engage in this type of thinking?
Could you instead choose positive alternatives for “what if” scenarios? Can you create a new story when it happens?
Do you have recommendations for others?
The article locator is doi: 10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1243, but a synopsis is available at https://www.scholars.northwestern.edu/en/publications/when-less-is-more-counterfactual-thinking-and-satisfaction-among-