Four Types of Regret
Inspiration credits to Rohan Rajiv
Daniel Pink spent the last few years accumulating a “regret” database wth over 20,000 responses from people in 109 countries. He summarizes his learnings from this study in a commencement speech given to the class of 2022. Here’s a summary of the four types of regret:
- Foundation regrets. Foundation regrets emerge from small choices we make earlier in life that accumulate to negative consequences later in life. We spend too much and save too little. We don’t eat right, sleep enough, or exercise regularly. We apply only grudging effort on the job — or, yes, in the classroom. Foundation regrets sound like this: If only I’d done the work.
- Boldness regrets. All regrets begin when we’re at a juncture. And with this category, the juncture presents a choice: Play it safe — or take the chance? And when we don’t take the chance — not all the time, but most of the time — we regret it. We regret not speaking up. Not starting a business. Not coming out. Not studying abroad. Not asking out a crush. Not asserting ourselves. Boldness regrets sound like this: If only I’d taken the chance.
- Moral Regrets. Once again, we’re at a juncture. We can take the high road or we can take the low road. And when we choose what our conscience says is the wrong path, most of us — most of the time — regret it. We hurt others. We break our word. We degrade what ought to be revered. And while at first the decision can feel fine — even exhilarating — before long it eats at us. Moral regrets sound like this: If only I’d done the right thing.
- Connection Regrets. These are regrets about all the relationships in our lives. Partners. Parents. Children. Siblings. Cousins. Friends. Colleagues. Classmates. What gives our lives significance and satisfaction are close and meaningful relationships. But without proper tending, those relationships can drift apart. Yet, because we feel awkward, we often do nothing. And the drift widens. Connection regrets sound like this: If only I’d reached out.
In other words: Do the work. Take the chance. Do the right thing. Reach out.