The Region-Beta Paradox

Edited and curated by @philhagspiel

As you can get stuck in the void of comfortable complacency somewhere in the middle, sometimes you’re better off if you’re worse off.


When our job is great today, it’ll likely remain great tomorrow. When our job is just so-so today, it might also be meh in the future. But when it’s horrible, it might actually become a lot better — because we take action to change it.

We act to improve things when they reach a particular threshold of badness. But when things are "just not awful enough," we frequently do nothing but watch them go on.

The slight pain in our knee will haunt us for years while the shattered shoulder will be healed in a few months (because we actively do something about it and get surgery).

Our just-okay romantic relationship today might drag on for years while the horrible painful relationship will make room for a better one in the future (because we will actually leave it).

After a party, being a little tipsy can make us drive home and wreck our car and ourselves, but getting completely wasted might be the safer move (because others will prevent us from driving and will call a cab).

Sometimes, you’ll be better off if you’re worse off. That’s the region-beta paradox.

It applies to many different areas of everyday life — whenever we respond to our circumstances and thus change the relationship between stimulus and ultimate outcome. We take action to change something when it is extremely awful. But if it's not too bad, we might decide to ignore it. The region beta is the average area in the middle where we are pleasantly numb and don't alter our course.


A few further resources you might like if you find the above idea interesting: