Learning from regrets

Regret – The universal experience

In this TED discussion, Daniel Pink (a best-selling author of books on work, creativity and behavior) talks about one important human emotion – regret. If you’re a regular reader of My Zen Path, you might have already read about the article & book ‘The top five regrets of the dying’ by Bronnie Ware in Before I die. We all experience regret about many things at different times in our life. Like most other human feelings, this also is a universal emotion.

I regret not traveling or not pursuing my other interests earlier in my life when I had more freedom with little responsibilities, or liabilities. No regrets is mostly a myth over a lifetime. Pink says – “Truly, the only people without regrets are five-year-olds, people with brain damage and sociopaths.”

Types of regret

Daniel Pink has done a scientific study for two years about regrets. He studied around 16,000 people from 105 countries and their regrets. There are many recurring regrets from all over the world that he has classified into four broader types of regrets.

  1. Foundation regrets – If only I’d done the work (as in studies, job/business etc.) to secure a stable foundation.
  2. Boldness regrets – If only I’d taken the chance to do something, to ask someone etc.
  3. Moral regrets – If only I’d done the right thing, based on their own perspective/belief.
  4. Connection regrets – If only I’d reached out, connected to friends, relatives that I missed.

He explains his study, observations and inferences quite well in the initial part. In the latter part, he answers a few questions from the audience about their own regrets. I’d suggest you watch this video before you read further –

Learning from regrets

There are wonderful insights from Pink’s study that he shares in this video. One intriguing insight is that the regret of failing after taking a chance is much lower than not ever taking that chance – such as doing a business/startup, asking someone for a date and so on. (boldness regret). So the study confirms this – in the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take. That also explains why people who follow their heart have lesser regrets in the end.

Coming back to my own regrets, I try to travel more often whenever possible (couldn’t do it since the pandemic though). I also try to find time from my work to pursue my other interests. It doesn’t pain much now since I’m actively doing something about it. 🙂

Daniel Pink explains the crucial difference between a mistake, a disappointment and a regret. More importantly, he suggests how we can learn to deal with the regrets and choose a path of healing. Saving ourselves from future remorse and hurt. I had many ‘Ah, that explains…’ moments while listening to him. I’m sure there would be more such insight in his book ‘The power of regret‘ as well. You may browse his book here –

And if you’re really intrigued, I’d recommend this moving book by Bronnie Ware – ‘The top five regrets of the dying‘. While Pink should be more research oriented & analytical, Ware comes from an empathetic view from her first hand experiences, owing to her long career as a palliative care nurse. Do check it out.

Is there a particular regret that you would like to share here?


Featured Image:

The featured image used in this post is by JacksonDavid  from Pixabay, and I’m using it here with gratitude.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.