The Power of Regret by Daniel Pink: Summary & Notes


Another fun, easy-to-read book from Dan Pink.

Regrets are something all of us deal with. And often they come with shame, an unwillingness to talk about them, or scar tissue that isn’t helpful.

But they can be more. Pink explores what regrets are, the most common, and how to deal with regrets in our lives as a force for good.

Something to learn for everyone in this book.


  • Despite what popular opinion says, regret is good. It instructs us.
  • Regret is about comparison: we compare what we think could have happened with what did. And we blame ourselves for making the wrong choice.
  • Regrets can improve decisions, boost performance (by increasing persistence), and deepen meaning.
  • The key with regret: use your emotions to understand when you’re feeling regret, think about why you’re feeling it, and then use it to improve your future.
  • The top regrets: family, partners, and then education, career, and finance, followed by health and friends.
  • Regrets tend to fall into 4 categories: foundation regrets, boldness regrets, moral regrets, and connection regrets.
  • Foundation regrets arise from our failure to plan and be prudent. They sound like: If only I’d done the work.
  • The solution to these: start today.
  • Boldness regrets arise from us playing it safe. They sound like: If only I’d taken that risk.
  • The lesson: speak up, ask them out, take the trip, start the business. Act.
  • Moral regrets arise from a choice that we realize was the wrong one. They sound like: If only I’d done the right thing.
  • Bullying and cheating on a partner were the most widely reported regrets.
  • The learning: when in doubt, do the right thing.
  • Connection regrets are about not starting or maintaining a relationship. They sound like: If only I’d reached out.
  • These tend to be either *rifts—*started by an event that breaks the relationship—or drifts—when relationships slowly fade.
  • The solution: shove aside the awkwardness and make the relationship happen.
  • Overall, regrets tend to be either regrets of action—things we did—or inaction—things we didn’t do.

For action regrets:

  1. Undo it: can you fix things or make amends?
  2. At Least it: acknowledge you made a mistake but frame it positively. “At least…”

To use regrets to improve the future:

  1. Relive & relieve: tell others or write down your thoughts, feelings and actions. It forces you to organize your thoughts.
  2. Normalize & neutralize: ask yourself what you’d say to a friend who had the same regret you do. Think about whether others have experienced this regret. And ask yourself if this is just an unpleasant moment or if it defines you. Practice self-compassion.
  3. Analyze & strategize: imagine this happening to someone you admire. What would they do? Imagine it’s 10 years from now and you’re looking back on how you responded well. What did you do? Talk yourself through the situation referring to yourself in the third person. These are all techniques of self-distancing that help us be objective.

To use anticipated regrets in your decision-making:

  1. Satisfice on most decisions. If you are not dealing with one of the four core regrets, make a choice, don’t second-guess yourself, and move on.
  2. Maximize on the most crucial decisions. If you are dealing with one of the four core regrets, project yourself to a specific point in the future and ask yourself which choice will most help you build a solid foundation, take a sensible risk, do the right thing, or connect with others.

You can find full survey results online:

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