Book Review: The Power of Regret

For years, I have helped clients craft individual mission statements. A personal “why”. Many of these statements suggest being a better person, a better dad, a better boss, a better human being. But the most common statement usually sounds like this…”no regrets”. And I have applauded this bold statement many times. It sounds great. It’s also not possible.

Daniel Pink is one of my favorite authors. He has written several New York Times bestsellers such as When, Drive, and To See IS Human. As a former journalist, Pink researches a particular topic for several years and then writes a book on it. His books are quite exhaustive in their research and he is a fantastic writer.

In his latest book, The Power of Regret, Daniel Pink takes on one of the most misunderstood emotions of all: Regret. What the book reports is that regret is a human emotion like anger, fear, and love. It’s impossible for any human being not to feel regret. In fact, in most cases, it is healthy to feel regret. What can be unhealthy is how we might allow regret to have a negative impact on our mindset.

For example, in August 1992, I was planning to start a Ph.D. program at Florida International University. I was intent on becoming a university professor. The week before the program was to start, Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida and destroyed our home and business. It was a nightmare experience. Needless to say, I did not start the Ph.D. program and my life went in a different direction. While I regret not doing the Ph.D. program, I am very pleased with how my life has turned out. I have been quite lucky. I do wonder from time to time how my life might have been different, but I do not languish in those thoughts. I manage that regret for the good.

The author, Daniel Pink, conducted one of the largest surveys ever done on regret and identified the four core regrets that most people have.

  1. Foundational Regrets: failure to be responsible or prudent. Often starts with “If only…” Example: “I should have attended more classes in college.
  • Boldness Regrets: Chances we didn’t take in our life. Inaction haunts us. Example: “What if I had gone to law school?
  • Moral Regrets: When we behave badly or compromise our own values. Example: “I screwed up a great friendship in high school when I ….
  • Connection Regrets: Fractured or unrealized relationships. Example: “I’ve been a crappy brother.”

 

Next, the author shares a simple, science-based, three-step process that allows us to transform our regrets into a positive force for working smarter and living better.

What regrets do you have about your life? How do you manage those regrets?

I very much enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it to all small business leaders.

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