According to Gilovich et. al’s Social Pyschology, counterfactual thoughts help make something tragic. All the fancy lingo aside, when something is almost avoided the whole situation seems much more dramatic. The boy who died of thirst three miles away from a town is much more upsetting than the boy who died of thirst three hundred miles away from a town. Running into your future best friend on the one day you decided to go into starbucks vs dunkin donuts seems much more important than meeting them in your every day hustle. Humans are so unique because we are able to travel in time mentally, through all these possibilities, and yet that gift also amplifies our sorrow when “almost” is an option.
Almost is such an important word because it represents our hopes and anger with chance. It hurts us to consider how close we were to something because we don’t like to be reminded that alot of things are out of our control. We can’t change the weather. We can’t make the traffic jam disappear. We can’t magically gain some idealistic body in a second’s notice.
However, what’s important to consider is this: we don’t have to be able to control everything. Trying to do so leads to a paranoid neurotic life. We can daydream and consider all the possibilites we want, but nothing we think is as potent as what we do. Thoughts and actions feed into each other, but we have a habit of letting the big dreams with hard choices become marginalized. We pick the easiest routes because its difficult to challenge ourselves. Whether for good or ill, the word ‘almost’ jolts us out of our comfort zone. It reminds us that the little choices matter. So keep your eyes open, keep your mind awake. Keep things in perspective and actually go for your dreams.