The Longing Lab

Decision Scientist Nika Kabiri on how longing influences our decisions

December 16, 2022 Amanda McCracken Season 1 Episode 7
The Longing Lab
Decision Scientist Nika Kabiri on how longing influences our decisions
Show Notes

Episode 7: Nika Kabiri speaks about the role longing plays in decision-making in both healthy and unhealthy ways, how to deal with anticipatory regret, and when to address inaction inertia. 

 Nika Kabiri has spent over 20 years studying how people make decisions in a variety of contexts, from relationships to business to politics. She is an author and speaker who’s written for The Hill, been featured in Fast Company and Yahoo!, and quoted in The Washington Post. Her website,, offers practical advice to people seeking to make better decisions for a better life. Nika has a PhD in Sociology, with a focus on choice theory, as well as a JD.

Connect with Nika at:

In this episode, (in order) we talked about…

*How emotions impact decision making

*The role of the gut in decision making, and when to strictly rely on your gut

*Decisions with a high or a low tolerance for error

*Decision fatigue in relation to the pandemic and why we relied on conspiracy theories

*Setting boundaries around decisions to protect your mental health

*The connection between longing and the scarcity trap

*How to overcome the fear of regret 

*How culture tricks us into believing we are in control of outcomes

*How to respond to those who tell you you’re an overthinker

*Why we should look for information, not advice, from our friends

*How inaction inertia keeps us from changing our decision-making patterns

*The difference between a decision-making scientist and a therapist


“Longing is an emotional reaction to experiencing a gap between where you crave to be and where you are. It’s the emotional experience you feel when that gap seems insurmountable.”

“I like to think of longing as a data point. One bit of information you need to consider as you decide how to move through your life. If you experience a longing, you have to pay attention to it.” 

“When people say, ‘I have to live my best me,’ and ‘I have to follow my bliss,’---it drives me up a wall. It’s insensitive. The reality is people rely on you to survive in a way, and you can’t ignore that.”

“When we are in a situation of uncertainty, that’s when we start to use heuristics (mental shortcuts) rather than relying on information.”

“Longing can be a very comfortable place to be (when there are unknowns). We tend to fear regrets and risks. We get stuck in longing because we don’t know what decisions to make along the way."

“For a long time I longed for a particular house. Now I have it. I longed for a particular type of career. Now I have it. It feels worse to not have that longing for it. I want to long for something else now. It’s made me realize that longing may be part of that human experience. To be satisfied, to me anyways, doesn’t feel as great as feeling hungry.”

 “The perfect outcome is probably unattainable. Your goal should be to maximize your chances. That’s about the process and not the outcomes. It’s about, ‘What can I do in the process of making a decision to make the (desired) outcome as likely as possible?’”

“Blame is an answer to, 'Why did something happen?' We think we need answers because the more we feel we understand, the more we feel we have control over the future decisions we make…If you constantly think about YOUR next decision, then you don’t have to be mired in all the blame, shame and meaning making.”

“If you find yourself making a certain decision over and over again, the likelihood of making that same decision is more likely in the future….The question is how much do you want to override that tendency for a better life.” 

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