After you lose something you want.

Back in December, I attended a focus group held by a couple of local realtors who were trying to refine their sales process.

We weren’t looking seriously for a house back then, and didn’t expect to be for some time. I was there because a friend invited me (and the Target gift card didn’t hurt).

One of the realtors said, off hand, that one of the hardest parts of her job was getting prospective buyers she was working with to get serious about house hunting. They came to her because they wanted a house, needed a house, but it was terribly difficult to get them to understand how the market worked around here and to recognize a fair price when they saw it.

Until that happened, they would never find the right house.

But I knew this realtor sold a lot of houses. She was good at what she did. I asked her, what does it take for buyers to get serious? What changes?

She answered immediately: they have to lose one.

Here’s what happens, she said: a client gets into a few (or a dozen) properties that they think they might like. They tweak their criteria, visit a few more, and then—eventually—they find a house they love. So they make an offer.

But of course (insert knowing smile here) the sellers are crazy for setting the asking price so absurdly high, so they make a low offer. A fair offer, they think, but markedly lower than the asking price.

And then those prospective buyers are devastated when the house—the house they’d been calling their house—sells in 3 days, at full price or darn close, to somebody else.

After they lose one, they’re serious. They’ve had their reality check and now they’re ready to act.

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After you lose something you want | Modern Mrs. Darcy

Ever since that night, I think about you have to lose one all the time. Definitely when we were house hunting, sure. But even on a daily basis: will I be sorry if I don’t get off email so I can read my book? Will I feel like I lost something if I don’t carve out time to talk to my husband, play with my kids, walk to the park?

Missing out is a motivator.

(Not the silly social media-induced Fear of Missing Out. We’re talking about really losing something.)

That isn’t new news: you’ve probably read the studies that say people hate to lose more than they like to win. It’s irrational, but it’s useful. Hey, even Donald Miller has based his day planner around a simple premise, borrowed from Viktor Frankl: every morning, pretend you’re living each day for the second time, and ask yourself: what would you change on your do-over?

Sound familiar?  (Such a good movie!)

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this:

Have you been able to make a big decision only AFTER you’ve missed out on something you wanted? Or do you find yourself using Frankl’s if-I-had-it-to-do-over-again framing for your day-to-day decisions? 

P.S. The single most effective question to ask yourself for better decision making, and the fear of disappearing doors.

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  1. antiquechase says:

    this is an interesting read. I will tell you that I lost “my” house to another bidder in a bidding war… and I was beyond sad. I really didn’t know how somebody else was going to live in “my” house! Then a month later, it fell out of escrow and we were first on the list and the realtor called us. It still was more than we wanted to pay but we stepped up, and I have been living in “my” house for 5+ years. I think I have always felt just sooo lucky that we got that second chance after the loss.

  2. Beth says:

    I’m currently on the receiving end of this…I’m dating a guy who originally asked me out about 10 months ago. Our plans for a date fell through and he didn’t pursue anything further. We texted a bit, but it fizzled and that was that. Fast forward a few months, and he contacted me about two weeks after I had started seriously dating another man. When I told him I couldn’t go out with him because I had just committed to a different relationship, he was pretty upset. And, lo and behold, when that relationship did not work out, he was at my door about a month after, with flowers and compliments, asking for a second chance with me. He’s been the most eager pursuer ever since. When I asked him what was different this time around, he very plainly said, “I thought I lost you forever. I wasn’t doing that again…I had to at least try.”

  3. Emily says:

    This strikes a chord with me. For a while after my husband and I got married, we knew we wanted to have kids but we weren’t ready to “try” yet, so we were “not trying not preventing.” I got pregnant and we were very happy, but I had an early miscarriage. After that, we both knew we were really ready to dedicate ourselves to starting our family. I’ve often wondered why I had to go through that difficult experience, and I think this idea gives me a little more insight into why…it wasn’t until I lost a baby that I realized how important it was to me to have children. I’m now 11 weeks pregnant, and I couldn’t be happier.

  4. Melissa says:

    My husband and I decided after 5 years of marriage we were ready to start trying to get pregnant – for me I had been building up to being ready for at least a year, and my husband said he was there too, but maybe just the tiniest bit hesitant, or not really realizing that we could be pregnant immediately, which is exactly what happened. Found out I was pregnant but had an early miscarriage a week and a half later (blighted ovum – we were sad, but not nearly the kind of devastation I know others have been through, maybe because we had never seen/heard a heartbeat, basically were told it was like a chemical pregnancy, our baby was never going to grow? I’m just saying, my focus here isn’t on it being a traumatic experience for us, because it really wasn’t, although it was a loss and made me realize how common an experience it is, shared by so many people) BUT anyway, I distinctly remember my husband saying to me right after that he really knew how much he WANTED a child now and was ready to become a parent, and that realization did occur only because of our loss. It certainly increased my seriousness about wanting to get our family started too – I think before I had the mindset of just letting it happen, but after I was intent on finding out just how soon was safe for us to try again, and was paying more attention to figuring out the best days to try and all that, lol. Praise God we got pregnant the first month we tried, again – he’s the love of our lives/crazy wild toddler now 🙂

  5. We lost a house, too. And I’ve never been more relieved. While we were waiting for their response, I started second-guessing the monthly payments and when our offer was rejected, we started looking in another direction. I have friends who live in that neighborhood, so I’ve been back there, and every time, I thank God for that “loss” and the chance it gave us to make a wiser decision. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away…” 🙂

  6. Scott says:

    Yeah, I agree with this… I remember when I met my wife, and we were just friends, there was kind of some drama and an argument with both of us and another girl (long story), and so for a while we didn’t really hang out. During that time I realized that I not only wanted to be with her, but I didn’t NOT want to be with her, if that makes any sense? Basically, she was the girl I didn’t want to live without.

    I think in life, losing something makes us realize what we were missing, maybe what had been filling our hearts, and we didn’t even know it (until it was gone).

  7. Karlyne says:

    What’s the old song lyric? “You never want a drink of water ’til the well runs dry”? This isn’t a topic I’ve ever really much thought about, because it sounds kind of dog-in-the-mangerish, but I think you’ve hit on a human behavior that’s pretty much universal. Unless we’re thinking deeply, we tend to take just about everything we have for granted.

  8. Tim says:

    I look on things the opposite way, Anne, but perhaps that’s only been happening as I’ve gotten older. When I see that an opportunity has passed me by I just figure there is something else coming along that I should be doing instead.

    Someone else bought the house? Oh well, there are other houses.

    I didn’t buy the computer while the sale was still going on? I can make the old one last (or do without) until the next sale, or just pay the regular price and put aside regrets over the lost savings..

    Job not quite what I thought I’d want to do for work? Either let it pass or if it bothers me enough then start making plans to pursue something else (which I did, as a matter of fact).

    I think it’s a matter of not wanting to live with regrets over things that are not of eternal significance. I might regret something, of course, but I’d like it to be about something that is truly worth regretting!


    • Karlyne says:

      I think this is, or can be, Tim, a learned response. I know that I learned very early on that I didn’t want to waste time on regrets, so I started to pay attention to the things that were important enough to me that I would regret either doing them or not doing them. And, you’re right! There are very few things worth sweating over and regretting…

      I’m thinking in song lyrics today: “Regrets I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. (Actually, I drive my kids crazy singing “appropriate” songs. In the veggie aisle, waiting for traffic, you name it. They’ve never shared that particular trait, but I have high hopes for the grandkids!)

    • Anne says:

      A giant YES to the last paragraph! Life’s too short to live with regrets about things that don’t matter.

      I think it’s both/and. I do believe in the “it’s just not meant to be” school of thought when things don’t work out (or at least much of the time I do 🙂 ) but sometimes I need a reality check. Like, if I keep waiting for a vending machine that sells cokes for a quarter because that’s what I think they should cost, I’m going to be thirsty for a long time. But then again I don’t drink coke, so maybe I should just be grateful the water fountain is free?

      Clearly, I need more coffee. 🙂

  9. Ana says:

    I read somewhere recently that a mother gave each child a jar with 30 quarters at the beginning of every month. She would check to see if their bed was made at the end of every day, and if it was, the jar stayed shut, but if it wasn’t, she would take out a quarter. The writer said that losing the money already in front of them was more powerful than earning money they couldn’t ‘see’. I’d like to try this strategy with my own kids.

    • Anne says:

      Now that’s a really interesting strategy. Now I’m debating if in practice it would be enlightening or if I’d end up feeling like a big meanie. 🙂 Let me know if you try it!

  10. Charyse says:

    Thank you for this…logging off the Internet to do a puzzle my six year old has been asking me to do for a week!

  11. Anne says:

    A thought-provoking post! We are house hunting right now.

    I’d have to say it’s easier to take the long-range view, now in my mid-30s, that Frankl’s question crystallizes. (I think that was really bad grammar, but I can’t figure out how else to write it, ha!) I feel good about the big decisions we’ve made (me at home, homeschooling, children), but there are other things I could apply the advice, too….writing/blogging/volunteering. The do over question is a good one! So, I guess I would say that I haven’t missed out/lost out on anything big (enough) to be sad about. I hope that doesn’t sound smug. That’s a nice thing to take stock of. Reminds me of something I read over at Tiny Twig: you give up nothing when you choose what is best.

    I also loved what I’ve seen of Donald Miller’s site. I downloaded his stuff right away. What neat resources you share with us, Anne! And I hope this comment makes sense. It is all over the place, but I’m going to hit post anyway!

    • Anne says:

      I know little about Storyline, but I do love his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. (Storyline builds on the concepts first explored in that book.)

  12. I like to watch HGTV’s Property Brothers while I’m on the treadmill, because it has a similar theme. Some demanding family has a long list of things they must have, but they don’t want to renovate, and they show them a house that has everything they want…but it costs 3x what they can afford. Our family sobers up and realizes they’ll have to be more rational, get a fixer upper, and create the house of their dreams from that. I don’t know why this is so compelling, but I guess we have different standards for treadmill TV.

    • Anne says:

      I would totally watch that on the treadmill! And yep, that’s exactly what the realtor was getting at. Clients are easier to work with once they sober up.

  13. Rebecca says:

    I read what you wrote…”every morning, pretend you’re living each day for the second time, and ask yourself: what would you change on your do-over?” and I thought, that sounds just like About Time. And then I read your next sentence linking to the movie. LOL!

    I love this movie, and have seen it several times. It has such great messages such as living each day to the fullest. And I loved the family dynamics. So often you see families on TV and in the movies who argue with and dislike each other. This family truly loved each other and enjoyed spending time with one another. Such a refreshing way to portray a family!

    • Karlyne says:

      And my pet peeve, Rebecca: families who argue with and dislike each other AND NEVER RESOLVE ANYTHING! No apologies, no attempts to do better, let alone actually become better! They just blow up at each other and then act as though it’s fine because that’s the way the world runs. I hate it!

  14. Alison says:

    Anne, your post is so very timely in my life, and has ‘crystallised’ thoughts that have been floating around in my head when I reflect on the circumstances this year has brought so far. I have either lost completely or elements of pretty much all the major areas of my life: my job; financial security; relationships; health; direction for my life. The fact that this has happened, and almost all at once, has forced me (willingly) to question what do I value, what am I willing to let go of and what is worth fighting for. And believe me, when you lose something that you didn’t want to – and that you value deeply – you will fight to get it back or replace it. I’m not talking about ‘stuff’, possessions and objects, I’m talking about matters of life and the heart. I never thought I’d lose my job and find it hard to get a new one, but that’s the position I’m in now, and I can tell you that I won’t ever take having a job for granted again. Losing my income and financial security has made me re-evaluate what’s important to spend money on, and I won’t ever just assume that I’ll have a regular income unquestioningly again. An d relationships? Well, let’s just say that losses of the heart are the ultimate in showing you what’s worth fighting to the death for in life.
    I love your perspective of applying the question to everything in life, it’s becoming an evaluation tool in the everyday of my life now 🙂

  15. Jennifer says:

    I knew I had to click over from my e-mail and check out the comments! I’m loving everyone’s vastly different take on this line of thinking.

    I am definitely a person who has a perhaps “disconnected” sense of what things should cost, but completely honestly, renting our current house is the only time that I have had to readjust my thinking on something’s value — but I early on saw the “big picture”: how much of the house could be written off for self-employment, and how the basement could be rented out as we are less than a mile to the local university, which will hopefully whittle a $1300/month pricetag down to $2!! (Plus utilities, naturally.) It is hard to conceive of values when they are at the grandiose level that a house is at — its so hard to break it down into “understandable” parts unless you already own a comparable home, or have decent exposure to home sales or renovations.

    I also think that part of this relates to a life of simplicity. By having or being involved in less, we can see things much more clearly and appreciate them for what they are, or alternatively, put less importance on the things we realize to not be as important.

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