The Power of Regret:

How Looking

Backward Moves

Us Forward

by Daniel Pink

After finishing this book in January of 2022, I wrote,


"Daniel Pink provides a compelling case for how to learn from our past 'regrets.' The issue he was not able to address, however, was the possibility of separating assessment from self-blame. Looking back over my life, I can find many things if I knew then what I know today, then I would have done it differently then. But I didn't know that then. So I have no self-blame, which for many means the same as regret."


My clippings below collapse a 255-page book into 6 pages, measured by using 12-point type in Microsoft Word.

See all my book recommendations.  

Here are the selections I made:


The seven-year-olds “performed very similarly to adults on the measures of the understanding of regret,” Guttentag and Ferrell write. Seventy-six percent of them understood that David would likely feel worse. But the five-year-olds showed little understanding of the concept. About three-fourths of them said the boys would feel the same.[4] It takes a few years for young brains to acquire the strength and muscularity to perform the mental trapeze act—swinging between past and present and between reality and imagination—that regret demands.


Only 1 percent of our respondents said that they never engage in such behavior—and fewer than 17 percent do it rarely. Meanwhile, about 43 percent report doing it frequently or all the time. In all, a whopping 82 percent say that this activity is at least occasionally part of their lives, making Americans far more likely to experience regret than they are to floss their teeth.


But the most common negative emotion—and the second most common emotion of any kind—was regret. The only emotion mentioned more often than regret was love.


A 2016 study that tracked the choices and behavior of more than a hundred Swedes found that participants ended up regretting about 30 percent of the decisions they’d made during the previous week.


But the truth is different. You’re much more likely to have a Silver Emma moment than a Bronze Borghini one. When researchers have tracked people’s thoughts by asking them to keep daily diaries or by pinging them randomly to ask what’s on their mind, they’ve discovered that If Onlys outnumber At Leasts in people’s lives—often by a wide margin.[7] One study found that 80 percent of the counterfactuals people generate are If Onlys.


Regret is the quintessential upward counterfactual—the ultimate If Only.


Perhaps you’re familiar with the First Law of Holes: “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” And perhaps you’ve ignored this law.


The psychological concept is known as “escalation of commitment to a failing course of action.” It’s one of the many cognitive biases that can pollute our decisions.