Danger of the first move - The surprising fact that your second choice is often more satisfactory

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Written by B and photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

Danger of the first move - The surprising fact that your second choice is often more satisfactory

Well, this is not what I expected! I bet you might have had this thought as often as I. You buy a product or make a decision for a new job or a study program and you end up being dissatisfied. Despite the fact that you made a very considerate decision! Maybe you made (at least a mental) list of pros and cons, you collected a lot of information and you still end up being disappointed.

 

You feel satisfaction once the reality matches your expectations. If the reality happens to exceed your expectations you feel more positive about your decision. Negative feelings arise once reality remains behind your expectations. Scientifically this simple mechanism is described in the expectation (dis-)confirmatory theory (Oliver, 1977, 1980). This mechanism explains why some people feel uncomfortable with the first study program or the first internship or job they enter and decide to change the way. Often we have very wrong expectations. As we grow older and make more decisions we get better at matching our expectations with reality and therefore, become more satisfied with many of our decisions.

 

Gaining self-knowledge

One reason for that is that we are gaining self-knowledge during that process. We realize on the way what we don’t and what we like. We develop opinions about what is important to us and where we are willing to compromise. Often choosing the right study program or job is more a question of the right match. An employer is not "good" or "bad", but some employers will make us feel more "at home" than others. It is important to accept that there is no short cut to gaining self-knowledge. It may be sometimes a hard way because it means to make decisions that are not suitable to realize what is more suitable for you. Just be patient and try to reframe your "bad" experiences as necessary to find your way to a more happy future.

 

Taking off rose-colored glasses

We live in a world where Photoshop and story-telling are common tools to paint a glittery world - that does not exist. We are often condemned to form wrong expectations due to a lack of honest information. No team leader will open up to you in an interview about their toxic culture and no boss will admit that he or she burned-out all the prior employees. However, we often also want to be fooled and play along. We want life to be perfect. Why should we settle for something less? Therefore, we often start with rose-colored glasses and cut ourselves off from negative information. We fall into the trap of idealization. We systematically build a way too positive picture of a job or a study program or a university, we hope to attend someday. We think that once we study medicine, we enter this magic, a grays-anatomic world of white doctor smocks and heroic, life-saving surgeries and are disappointed once bureaucracy ties us to an office chair. Life teaches us quite hard what reality is. When you are disappointed by the first study program you start, it might simply because you expected that studying (in general) would be quite different. Once you made the first encounter you will adapt your expectations for the next time. When you then enter another study program or change university you have way more realistic expectations that this new institution might be more likely to be able to fulfill. This university may not necessarily better or the study program more suitable for you, but you have adapted a bit more to reality and learned what you can expect from life. 

 

Published on Friday 22nd November 2019



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