Winner’s Curse

Most of us think that dealing with failure is among the most difficult things for any person. I want to put a contrary point of view here, that it is actually dealing with success which is more challenging than dealing with failure. It is not just because of the conventional wisdom that mind does not get the satisfaction from the success that it thinks it will get, although that is one aspect of it. There is a deeper reason to this and that has to do with the trade-offs that success implies. The value of success is only one side of the coin, the trade-offs that happens in its pursuit is usually not understood by most of us.

Winner’s curse or buyer’s remorse is a phenomenon typically seen in common value auctions where the buyer or a winner feels that they have overpaid in retrospect. Typically it may happen due to a winner overpaying due to emotional reasons or incomplete information. In life this is more frequent than we think. In fact most of the time success as described by the social norms has a steep price attached to it. I have closely interacted with people whom society would describe as successful having achieved their career and business goals. When they introspect in the later stages of life, many of them have regrets about the way they have lived their lives. Some of them have chronic health issues as they had not prioritized their health, some have rifts with their family and then there are some who feel that they had to kill their passion to achieve success. The success in terms of money or hierarchy is there but it does not mean much in the context of having lost out on something else.

Being creatures of the herd our understanding of value of anything is generally a perception of our peer group and not the actual value as perceived by us. Researchers and practitioners of consumer behavior know this very well. If 10 people are of the view that doing x is good and y is bad, the 11th person will usually agree without much thought. While this has far reaching implications for the propoganda machinery of any state, in the individual context it means that things are not what they seem to be.

I myself have had experiences where I felt that the time and energy I put into something was not worth it. Later on when I analyzed all these instances, there was one common thread that I found. These were not the things that I wanted for myself. They were things others had or did and I assumed that it would work for me as well. I have found that it is usually better to first understand the trade-offs in one’s own context and value system that are implied in any decision and be comfortable with them. The only way to ensure that we do not have these blind spots and take decisions that are optimal is to be in a state of full self awareness. This state of self awareness is quite far off for most of us because of the layers of conditioning, biases and compulsive behavior patterns. It is not possible to wish these things away in an instant and become more self-aware. There are introspection methodologies in psychology that can help to an extent. However without addressing the energy imbalances creating these issues, the problem does not get addressed. In my experience, Yoga is the most effective method that can deal with these issues at the energy level and make one more self-aware.


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