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The Region-Beta Paradox - When Good is the Enemy of Great

Thanks, Mathias Reding

Something in your life isn't going so well. If only it was worse.

30 second summary:

The Region-Beta Paradox explains that we often endure things that are “not-so-bad,” but this stops us from flourishing into truly good situations. The paradox is that when situations are sort-of bad, we'd actually be better off if they were worse! Because then we'd do something about it.

Our blog is called “Live a Good Story,” and we believe you need to avoid Region Beta if you’re going to live your best story. That means taking stock of less-than-ideal situations in your life, and challenging yourself to get out of them before they drag on.



Continuing from our post about life regrets, recall that Bronnie Ware worked in hospice for years and gathered the five most common life regrets. People tend wish they had:

  • Lived a life true to themselves
  • Enjoying life instead of working too hard
  • Expressed their own feelings.
  • Stayed in touch with friends
  • Let themselves be happier.

How can we avoid these regrets and live a good story? One way is to avoid Region Beta circumstances.

Life is full of paradoxes, and one that we encounter often is the Region-Beta Paradox. This paradox describes a situation where something is not bad enough to leave, but actually isn't good enough to stay.

What is the Region-Beta Paradox?

We find ourselves in this predicament frequently, from relationships to jobs to even our geographic locations. We may have everything we need to survive and be content, but we're not truly happy. This paradox is something many people struggle with, and it can be difficult to overcome.

The Region-Beta Paradox is named after the statistical term "beta," which refers to the degree of risk associated with a particular investment.

Dan Gilbert, who published “Stumbling on Happiness,” coined the Region-Beta paradox when speaking about whether someone travels to work via walking or bicycling, and how people will endure walking further and taking longer if the pain isn’t too bad, rather than switching to biking.

The more interesting thing, we think, happens when we look at real-life things we’re enduring for too long that are weighing us down.

The paradox comes into play when we have a sense of comfort and familiarity in our current situation, but we also know that we could have more or better. We may feel like we're in a "good enough" situation, but we're not truly happy or fulfilled.

This paradox can be seen in many different areas of life. For example:

  • Someone may be in a relationship where they're comfortable and have a sense of stability, but they know deep down that they're not truly happy. Everyone's got a friend that talks about the bad relationship they stayed in for too long.
  • Or someone may be in a job that pays well and has good benefits, but they don't feel challenged or fulfilled. It's a situation where we may feel stuck or trapped, even though we're not necessarily in a terrible situation.
  • Or you might have hired a B-player to fill a spot on your team. They’re not bad enough to let go of them, but they’re taking the place of an A-player who could crush this role.

The Big Takeaway

The paradox is that we’d be better off if the situation was worse! Because then we’d take action and do something about it. Chris Williamson summarizes it really nicely in this video:

Chris Williamson on Twitter - Region Beta


From the life regret examples, a few are very applicable:

  • Living a life that someone else expects of us instead of true to ourselves: we could be in a career our parents wanted us to pursue. It’s a good job, it pays well, and we’re decent at it. But we don’t feel truly alive.
  • Working too hard: We’re working long hours – but we can make it work. If we were working EVEN more, we’d hit our breaking points and work less. But everyone else seems to be working long hours, so we stay and justify it.

So, why does the Region-Beta Paradox happen? One reason is that we're creatures of habit, and we tend to stick with what we know. We may be afraid to make a change or take a risk because it feels unfamiliar and scary. Additionally, we may be worried about losing what we have if we make a change. Even if we're not completely happy with our current situation, there's a sense of comfort and familiarity that can be hard to let go of.

However, staying in a Region-Beta situation for too long can have negative consequences. It can lead to feelings of frustration, apathy, and even depression. We may feel like we're not living up to our full potential, and that can be incredibly discouraging. And, even more insidious, it can lead to those moments where you “suddenly wake up and realize” you’ve spent 10 years in the wrong job, or city, or relationship. Midlife crisis, anyone?

What do we do about it?

It's important to recognize when we're in a Region-Beta situation and take steps to move towards something better.

How can we overcome the Region-Beta Paradox? The first step is to recognize that we're in it. We need to be honest with ourselves about how we're truly feeling and acknowledge that we're not completely satisfied.

Once we've done that, we can start exploring our options. This may involve taking risks, trying new things, or even making major life changes. It's not always easy, but it's important to take action if we want to move towards a more fulfilling life.

Our clients at No Story Lost tell us stories about big changes they’ve made, scary new chapters, and realizing their potential. As Lori put it, “today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Which one of your friends needs to hear about the Region-Beta Paradox? Share this post 😀

Read more on the rest of our blog, here.

Back to our home page to learn about our life story book projects, here.



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