Daniel Pink is the author of several best-selling booksthat probe human behavior. He’s written on the importance of timing, themechanism behind motivation, and the sociology of selling things. His new book,The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, isabout the wrongheadedness of the “no regrets” credo.
Daniel Pink 是一位有着好几本畅销书的作家，他的每本书探讨的是人类行为。
Why write a book on regret? Theexternal reason is that we’ve gotten it profoundly wrong. If we do not understandthis emotion, then we are leaving its capability on the table. For mepersonally, it’s largely because I have regrets of my own. I can’t imaginehaving written this book in my 30s. But in my 50s, it felt kind of inevitable.
You write about four core categories of regret:foundation regrets, boldness regrets, moral regrets, and connection regrets.Can you explain the differences?Foundation regrets are about stability: finances,health, about studying in school and university. Boldnessregrets are about “if only I’d taken the chance,” a very large categoryof regrets. Moral regrets are complicated; itgets super interesting in the very small category of things. To most peoplearound the world and of different political perspectives, bullying andinfidelity are bad things. But I told a left-leaning American of a regret a lotof people had about not serving in the military and he said, “That’s not aregret.” If you believe in a sense of duty, that’s a different moral code. It’snot wrong; it’s not better or worse.
And connection regrets are about losing touch withsomebody because of a schism? These are often about relationshipsthat come apart in profoundly undramatic ways. It’s not people throwing platesat each other; it’s a slow drift. Then one person doesn’t want to reach out becausethey think it’s going to feel awkward and they think the other side’s not goingto care. And they’re wrong.
Which is the largest category? Connection regrets. Moralis the smallest, but there’s something about those that really stickwith people. There’s somebody in my book who stole candy from a grocery storewhen she was 10. And at age 70, she’s still bugged about that.
Is there a difference between using regret andlearning from our mistakes? They’re related. Mistake is an action; regret is afeeling. The thing about regret is that it hurts. And it hurts for a reason. Itmakes it much more likely that I’m going to be awake to the possibility oflearning from that mistake.
Can regret make you a better leader? Ifyou deal with it right. Ignoring regret is a really bad idea for leaders, becausethey’re not going to learn. But wallowing in it, in some ways, is even worsebecause it hobbles them. What I’d like for leaders is not to proclaim “noregrets” as this sign of courage, but actually to show courage by staring theirown regrets in the eye and doing something about them, and having honest,authentic conversations with their team. There’s evidence showing thatconfronting your regrets can make you a better negotiator, a better strategist,and a better problem solver. There’s even evidence that disclosing regrets andmistakes strengthens your standing and builds affinity rather than the reverse.
Your steps for dealing with regret seem similar tothe way people who have faith deal with what they call sins. You confess, yourepent, you make amends, and you live differently. Would not your process be avery familiar one to, say, Catholics? Our brains areprogrammed for positive emotions and negative emotions, because negativeemotions are functional. And our most common negative emotion is regret,because it’s also the most instructive and clarifying. So the fact thatreligious traditions have figured this out and tried to reckon with it is agreat sign. And the fact that their steps are similar to the steps sciencesuggests is also a great sign. What’s not a great sign is the utter captureof kind of broader cultural philosophy that suggests that you shouldn’t haveregrets, you should never look backward, and that if you have a negativefeeling, it should be banished.
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