From school (particularly middle school), I vividly remember the expressions on my classmates’ faces just before the teacher would distribute exam results. Tensed, excited,nervous – one could see it all over our faces. Each time someone went to collect their paper from the teacher, the others would look at her in anticipation, and wait for her to declare her score. Each declared score determined the current highest scorer, and made the others even more restless. Now I feel that one should judge themselves by how much they have improved from the last time, and learn from their mistakes. But, I suppose we were too young to understand this back then. Strangely, someone scoring a 97 would be ecstatic, but only until she found out that someone else had scored a 98. Yes, happiness was short-lived for the person who came 2nd, for she would sulk about how she just missed it.
After the London Olympics 2012, BBC published an article online stating this exact observation among the Silver Medal winners. A study conducted after the 1992 Olympics found out that people who won the Silver Medal were less happier than those who won the Bronze or even those who didn’t win anything at all. Puzzled? So was I . But, the fact remains that people tend to think about how things could have been different and what they could have achieved – termed by psychologists as ‘counterfactual thinking’. This kind of thinking is more associated with the Silver Medal winners, for they feel that they were so close to the Gold and they just missed it. On the other hand, the Bronze medallists feel relatively happier thinking that they at least made it to the top 3 and did not lose out on their chances completely.
So now I know that this behaviour does not only pertain to a group of teenagers from a Convent School, but is in fact common with a lot of people all over the world. On many occasions, you might have cursed that one moment which could have been different, that one step you could have taken, or on another note, maybe that one sentence you could have said to someone. But, do not be overwhelmed by regret or sorrow. You cannot do anything about what could have been, though you can certainly be thankful for what you have and prepare yourself to do better next time.
As BBC rightly puts it, “We’re all haunted by things we could have done, or shouldn’t have done. What’s the point in dwelling on such matters, we may ask, when we can’t change the past?”