Which road to choose?

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I just finished this summary of research that made me very, very sad. Psychologist Tom Gilovich and former Cornell graduate student Shai Davidai published their conclusions “The Ideal Road Not Taken” in the journal Emotion. 

What they found is that people regret not living up to what they perceive as their ideal self far more than they regret not living up to obligations.

They base this on the idea of three components of a person’s sense of self: the actual, ideal and the ought selves. The actual self is who a person believes they are. The ideal self is who they would like to be. The ought self is who they feel they should be.

When the men asked hundreds of people in six surveys to list and categorize their regrets, they found people have an easier time defining what they ought to do than in what they would do to be their best self. People wait for inspiration that may never come or they worry about what others will think of them. The researchers conclude that Nike has been right. The best course of action is “Just do it.”

These ideas resonate with me. I’ve always been the conscientious one, the one who follows rules. I let fear of failure and of the unknown stop me from making job choices that may well have led to a happier life. The regrets are real.

As a result of the soul-searching I finally did, I wrote Career Finder Workbook for Teens in the hopes of helping young people make more intelligent decisions than I did. I wrote it for middle school age students, but if you are an adult who is wondering what to be when you grow up you might find it helpful.

 

Are your “shoulds” holding you back?

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Give it a Rest

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I venture a guess that no woman in America will be surprised by the results of research done by Cornell University, the University of Minnesota, and Minnesota Population Center. They studied time diaries from 12,000 parents and concluded dads are happier when parenting than moms are. It seems moms do more of the work tasks while dads do more fun tasks. Ya think?

Moms were often alone with their kids, but dads often spent time with their kids in social situations with other adults around to give support. Moms were also more likely to be on call 24/7, so dads got more uninterrupted sleep.

For a fictional look at how this can play out, I recommend Leave Me, a novel by Gayle Forman. The mom in this book suffers a heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery only to return home to whining, demanding children and a husband who thinks she can make a full recovery in a week so as not to inconvenience him.

Having facts from a study like this one to back up fiction and anecdotal evidence is good, but when will this situation change? I don’t have children, but I do find myself jumping in to do things that others could and should do for themselves and then feeling resentful. I need to learn to back off, set better boundaries, and ask for help instead of playing martyr. Do you?