The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward by Daniel Pink

13. Dislosure, Compassion, and Distance

  • The big goal is to use regret to improve the future and to convert regrets into fuel for progress. It’s a three-step process. 1. Share your regrets. You can just talk to yourself, write them down, or tell others. This helps to make abstract negative emotions more concrete. 2. Extend to yourself the same warmth and compassion that you would offer others. As you should not judge others, don’t judge yourself. Self-compassion can be learned and it is better than self-esteem. 3. Distance yourself from the regret so you can see the big picture. This will help you to analyze and strategize. If you find that it’s easy to solve other people’s problems, pretend that you are someone else. Time travel by asking yourself how you will feel about it ten years in the future.

14. Anticipating Regret

  • Regret is a retrospective emotion. We can also use it prospectively and proactively to gaze into the future and predict what we will regret. We can then reorient our behavior based on our forecast. Anticipating regret can help us to do more good things. This animates the idea of pre-mortems where people consider what could go wrong before implementing any plan. Anticipating regrets can improve your health. However, since we are not good at predicting the future we run the risk of overestimating regret. It can steer us away from making the best decision. Focusing too much on what we will regret can result in deciding not to decide.

Coda. Regret and Redemption

  • Regret deals with things you have control of. Dan’s survey showed that 75% of his large sample believe in free will and also believes that things happen for a reason. These contradictory beliefs make us actors in and authors of our life’s stories. With regret we look backward to move forward, seizing what we can control and putting aside what we cannot as we craft our own redemption stories. This can be liberating and Dan admits that it has been for him. Thanks to his work on this book Dan also tries harder to reach out and do better. He ends by telling us that regret makes him human. Regret makes him better. And regret gives him hope. I find that it has done the same for me and I believe it can for you too if you believe it can. Good luck.

Daniel Pink

  • Daniel is the author of the New Youk Times bestsellers A Whole New Mind, Drive, To Sell is Human, and When. His books have sold millions of copies, have been translated into forty-two languages, and have won multiple awards. Pink and his family live in Washington, DC. Visit his website to learn more about him and his books and to make contact. Follow him on Twitter @DanielPink.
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