Daniel Pink and The Power of Regret
One might wonder why a high school student might be interested in a book about regrets. After all, we are young, have a lifetime ahead of us and many regrets could take years to discover. Well, that is precisely why I wanted to read this book now. Regrets are unavoidable. If I could learn and grow and use such lessons as a source for future success or a better life, then sign me up. We have one life to live in the limited time we are here. If I could learn from others to avoid a life of serious regrets, I’d rather do it at this age than at a time when it could be too late. Allow me to share the lessons I’ve learned from this book.
All regrets start with a choice. Whenever you make a choice, it is at the expense of another path you could take and the pros and cons that accompany such selection. There are two types of regret: “regrets of action” and “regrets of inaction.” Regrets of action are when you regret things you did. For example, a bad decision. Maybe you took a nap on the bus ride home that was a little too long… maybe you’ve been cheating your way out of paying the school’s lunch prices… maybe you walked into Stairwell D at the wrong time… or maybe you succumbed to the pestering urge to film a TikTok, yes a TikTok, in public, so painfully mind-numbing waves of cringe could be felt traveling about the earth’s crust! Regrets of action are easier to resolve than regrets of inaction. You could always make amends, put a situation into perspective, and find a silver lining. You could also imagine how the situation could have been worse and use such regret to learn and grow.
Regrets of inaction are harder to get over. “If only I had taken the chance” or “If only I had done such and such.” One might think that regrets about a career, finances, health are separate categories of regret. But that they are not. Not asking someone on a date, not starting a business, not traveling enough…these are all the same regret of “if only I took the chance.”
In his book, Mr. Pink compiles people’s strongest regrets from all over the world. He finds that there are 4 types of regrets: (i) Work/study harder; (ii) Boldness [if only I took the chance (as discussed above)]; (iii) Moral [if only I did the right thing (cheating, bullying, etc)] and (iv) Connection (a relationship ends, one person wants to reach out but does not).
By understanding that these are what people regret most in life, then we also understand what people value the most. The regrets teach us that most people who have lived a lifetime value: stability, a chance to learn and grow, goodness and love. These values help us understand what makes life worth living.
Regrets can be a reason for people’s unhappiness or dissatisfaction later in life. I know it’s impossible to live life without regrets. I also know that regrets about a path not taken can haunt people as they are always wondering what might have been. Sure no one knows if the alternative would have been better but it’s the “what if” that people regret.
The Power of Regret made me more aware of regret in general and that perhaps regrets of not taking a chance are really more about making calculated decisions with the understanding that mistakes are part of life too. Life is all about choices, balancing opportunities and obligations and we could use “regret” to learn and grow instead of being so hard on ourselves. And yes, I’d rather learn these lessons as a high school student than when I am older!