Enquirer Digest - Weekly #0002: Regret
October 7, 2022
Our theme for this week is Regret. It does sound like a dark subject, but I assure you there will be a positive look to it. At the beginning of 2022 Daniel Pink published a book about Regret "The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward". As a result, Daniel Pink will be at the heart of this issue as we will be having a look at the things he has to say about regret.
In relation to this week’s subject the podcast to listen to is:
The Diary of A CEO with Steven Bartlett hosted Daniel Pink in the following episode:
E130: The Real Trick to Long Term Motivation: Daniel Pink.
In part of that episode Pink discussed his views on regret. I presume that it was found powerful, so the regret portion was published separately. If you prefer to listen to just the regret part this would be your choice.
Moment 67 -The HIDDEN Power of REGRET: Daniel Pink
Let us start with what regret is:
Marshall Goldsmith defines Regret in his Book Triggers as follows:
Regret is the emotion we experience when we assess our present circumstances and reconsider how we got here. We replay what we actually did against what we should have done—and find ourselves wanting in some way. Regret can hurt.
Types of Regret
Daniel Pink conducted an expansive regret survey and gathered 16,000 regrets from people all around the world (105 countries). Pink found that all human regret falls into four categories:
1. Foundation regrets: If only I had done the work.
2. Boldness regrets: If only I had taken that risk.
3. Moral regrets: If only I had done the right thing.
4. Connection regrets: If only I had reached out.
"If foundation regrets arise from the failure to plan ahead, work hard, follow through, and build a stable platform for life, boldness regrets...arise from the failure to take full advantage of that platform—to use it as a springboard into a richer life." ‐ Daniel Pink
Author Daniel Pink discovered that two-thirds of all the regrets in his survey were regrets of inaction. Projects not started, people not contacted, words not said. This makes sense because if you do something wrong you get to see the outcome and take redemptive action to reduce the regret overtime. But when you don't act, you're left wondering what could have been.
What can be done about Regret?
Rather than allowing regret to consume our thoughts, interfere with our actions, and damage our happiness, we can acknowledge that everybody makes mistakes they regret.
Knowing that regret is part of the shared human experience allows us to normalize and neutralize the shamefulness of regret. We can use regret to create a redemption story once we normalize and contain the spirit of regret. Research reveals that people who tell redemption stories have happier, more accomplished, and more meaningful lives. Regrets are the starting point for crafting a new redemption story.
Although I agree in theory, the implementation is not as easy as it sounds. First off regret is an emotion for which we have no one else to blame. Going back to regret can create shame, frustration, anger, and all other kinds of unwanted negative emotions. This makes it extremely difficult to go back and delve into it. Although it is exceedingly difficult it paradoxically looks like this is the road to take.
This reminds me of Tara Brach's book “Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha.” where she talks about suffering and fear.
In the chapter about fear, there is a part titled “Leaning into Fear.” Although leaning into fear is fearful Tara Brach says:
“Leaning into suffering does not mean losing our balance and getting lost in suffering. Because our usual stance in relating to suffering is leaning away from it, to turn and face suffering directly serves as a correction. As we lean in, we are inviting, moving toward what we habitually resist…leaning in can help us become aware and free in the midst of our experience.”
How can we lean into our regrets?
There can be diverse ways to do this. Talking about regret and sharing pain seems to be one of the ways forward. Admitting your regrets to a close friend or writing them can make you feel better.
In a research study, researchers had subjects talk about their regrets for 15 minutes a day. After four weeks, participants were observed to have higher levels of life satisfaction and overall mental well-being. Daniel Pink underlines that this works because talking about our regrets can make them more concrete.
To sum up:
1. Do not push away regret. Accept them, work on them create redemption stories
2. Anticipate what actions may cause regret and take action accordingly.
3. Inaction is the main source of regret. When you don't act, you're left wondering what could have been.
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Today’s Article on regret is from Mark Manson. A short and powerful read into regret. You can find the article below:
Mark Manson's article provides similar insight to regret as Daniel Pink does. I especially like how he defines regret:
"I would argue a regret is simply a mistake that we haven’t learned the proper lesson
He goes on to argue that going through your regrets, accepting them, and letting them go is the way to be free.
He finishes the article with a powerful ending.
"In the end, the slow burn of regret that carries on for years is really just a death by a thousand tiny cuts. So let your regrets turn into a raging wildfire that kills everything in its path. You can sow the seeds for something better in the ashes."
I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done.
Quote resurfaced by Readwise