Book review: The Power of Regret - How Looking Backwards Moves Us Forward

Written by Kirsty Fiddes.


The Power of Regret - How Looking Backwards Moves us Forward, by Daniel H. Pink

It was lovely to meet up once more in Ozone with proper coffee and Eggs Benedict and chat with like-minded kiwi women about Regret.

Daniel Pink’s new book written during lockdown and published in 2022 was a slow burn but once ignited, burned brightly. 

The book is divided neatly into 3 parts, and the findings are based mostly on the results of the World Regret Survey and the American Regret Project.   

The first part of the book unpicks what regret is and we get a sense of some common themes the world over feels regret about.

The second part of the book takes these regret themes and categorises them into four main regrets. Foundation, Boldness, Moral and Connection regrets. 

1. Foundation regrets where we wished we worked harder at school, we saved and not overspent or adopted healthier lifestyles. 

2. Boldness regrets where we wish we had taken those chances either in love or education or work. 

3. Moral regrets where we behaved poorly or let temptation get the better of us. We may not have felt bad immediately, but these moral regrets ate away at us over time.   

4. Connection regrets where we fall out or lose touch with family or good friends either on purpose or just by drifting apart. 

The third part of the book takes the regrets and gives us the power and tools to do something about them. 

If the regret is due to an action regret, then we can try to make amends or reverse our choices or erase the consequences. We can also use the ‘At Least’s’ to help us feel better e.g., I wish I hadn’t taken that university course but at least I met my now husband there.

The regret may be due to not doing something (an inaction), so Daniel suggests we try self-disclosure by telling people about it or writing it down privately. He suggests we try and normalise and neutralise the regret or use self-distancing where we visualise how we may feel in 10 years’ time or look at the big picture.

Finally, we end with the Regret Optimalisation Framework when we are met with,

‘Is this decision I am about to make to do with one of the four core regrets?’

If yes, then spend some time thinking about it and project yourself into the future and ask yourself how will you feel in 10, 20, or 30-years’ time?

If the decision doesn’t involve one of the four core regrets, then make a decision and move on. Do not waste time ruminating, you will be fine!

Our group focused on financial regrets. We wished we had bought a house sooner or put more in our pension pots earlier however we took the positive advice from Daniel and booked ourselves into getting financial advice and gifting the book to those friends we know who have regret in their lives. 

Thank you, Daniel Pink, for another enlightening book.