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My book review this month is on Dan Pink’s new book, The Power of Regret. The thesis is that the popular mantra of No Regrets is a “delightful but dangerous doctrine” (p. 6) and we benefit from focusing on our regrets in a constructive way.  Pink then outlines a strategy for how to process the emotion of regret so that we lift ourselves up instead of sinking into a destructive behavior pattern.
Takeaways include:
  • “Regret, handled correctly, offers three broad benefits. It can sharpen our decision-making skills. It can elevate our performance on a range of tasks. And it can strengthen our sense of meaning and connectedness.” (p. 42)
  • Identify which of the four basic categories the regret you are feeling falls into. They are: “foundation regrets, boldness regrets, moral regrets, and connection regrets.” (p. 15)
  • Pink describes foundation regrets as those that occur when we choose an easy path over a hard path for a life decision – for ex., the choice to spend rather than save when you are in your 20’s – and you have the benefits of time and the compounding value of money on your side.
  • Boldness regrets occur when we look back at a time when we chose to remain quiet or inactive in the presence of the opportunity to make a bold move.
  • Moral regrets are what they sound like and “connection regrets arise any time we neglect the people who help establish our own sense of wholeness. When those relationships fray or disappear or never develop, we feel an abiding loss.” (p. 80)
  • If you find yourself falling into the trap of ruminating on your feelings, try thinking through the regret to find an action that you can take. Suggestions on how to benefit from our regrets include writing about the experience using third person, talking about it into a tape recorder, and reframing the regret to focus on a positive outcome.
  • Or as Pink says, “What does this regret tell you? What instructions does it offer for making better decisions? For improving your performance? For deepening your sense of meaning?…. When feeling is for thinking, and thinking is for doing, regret is for making us better.” (p. 55)
  • For those prone to overanalyzing everything, consider that when you are evaluating a decision that you need to make, you can think ahead and imagine that you chose incorrectly. Will the regret you feel fall into one of those four categories or not? If not, make a decision and move on. If so, spend more time thinking through the decision.

If you’ve enjoyed this Power of Regret book review, you may also enjoy my review of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.