Review: The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward

The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward by Daniel H. Pink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We live in a culture that tells us we should have "no regrets"; we should be forward-looking, forget the past, and charge into the future, never pause to linger on mistakes we've made, opportunities we've missed, or considering how our life might have been different.  We'd be silly to be George Bailey of It's A Wonderful Life (of course, then, we'd also be dead and not able to regret or learn from our regrets).  That's the picture that Pink paints in his opening chapters as a means of justifying his book to explore regret.  How truly the average person ignores engaging in regret seems to still be up for question but Pink might frame it as a "no regret" epidemic.  If that opening sounds overly critical of the book, it probably is but that's because largely what Pink is offering is not the power of regret but the power of reflection with a focus on reflecting on things we might regret. He offers a lot of insightful considerations about regret. For instance, regret comes in different flavors such as the regret of having done something vs. the regret of not having done something and the different ways that play in peoples' psyches. He highlights the domains where we might experience regret (familiarly, relational, work, etc) and how we might work through it.  He also helps the reader try to understand how we might better anticipate our own future regret. Still, most of where the power to address, learn from, reframe, not get fixated upon, and move beyond our regrets is more about leveraging reflective practices.  That said, it's a useful text for folks to draw upon, not just if they knowingly have regrets but to possibly realize how much or little they have engaged with some of the very practices he advocates.

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