Last week I attended theWharton Future of Work Conference. It was like a baseball trading card convention of psychologically minded nerds all meeting up to talk about work systems. And I loved it. The focus was, as you might assume, the future of work and what work looks like at this stage of the pandemic. Much of the conversation centered around work from home versus return to the office, and of course hybrid. (If you are wondering what the answer is, it's hybrid). In relation to creating healthy work systems post work from home, I was most excited to hear Carol Dweck, the pioneer of growth mindset, and yes, she did not disappoint. But the real surprise of the day was author Daniel Pink.
I'm a big fan of Daniel Pink, I've read most of his books and even took his Masterclass because I find him so darn interesting. Did you know he was the chief speech writer to Vice President Al Gore?! Neat. His newest book, The Power of Regret explores what Pink has found to be our most misunderstood emotion. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure how regret specifically fit into an examination of the future of work, but what I learned is that regret fits in pretty much everywhere.
Pink's research findings are fascinating. As he reviewed previous studies focused on regret, he found that results were kind of all over the place. In general people report feeling the most regret around education, family, and love, and then a lot of other things. So many other things that it is impossible to determine a clear frontrunner. What Pink found to be lacking in previous studies was a clear explanation for why. What the regrets mean on a deeper level and whether or not there were correlations. To answer this question he went about a method of gathering qualitative research to weigh against the quantitative results from previous studies. Pink set up the World Regret Survey website where over 20,000 from people from 109 countries have submitted their biggest regrets (you can too, here). What he found after reading through thousands of individual regrets was that regret falls into 4 basic categories.
1. Foundation Regrets - people who make small decisions early in their lives that accumulate over time. Like spending too much money and not saving. Smoking and other health decisions. Small decisions that create wobbliness later in life. These regrets sounds like, “If only I had done the work.” They center on the human need for stability.
2. Boldness Regrets- Not asking people out on dates, not studying abroad, not speaking up, not starting a business. When people do not take the chance and play it safe. Not taking risks. These regrets sounds like, “If only I’d taken the chance.” They center on the human need for and fear of growth.
3. Moral Regrets - bullying, being at a juncture to do the right or wrong thing and you do the wrong thing and regret it. Lots of regrets about bullying and marital fidelity. These regrets sound like, “If only I’d done the right thing.” They center on the human desire for goodness.
4. Connection Regrets - about relationships and not only romantic relationships. Friendship, family. A relationship has fallen apart and there is hesitancy to reach out and the rift continues. Pluralistic ignorance. This can include workplace relationships. These regrets sounds like, “If only I’d reached out.” They center on the human need for love.
Pink concluded from these findings that what people want out of life, what we value and what makes us happy are stability, growth, goodness and love. He believes that by looking at what we regret, talking about what we regret, we are really sharing important insight into what we deeply value and what we believe makes life worth living. How cool is that?
I have so much more thinking to do about Pink's findings. But for now I'll say I'm completely fascinated! I cannot wait to read the book. Which leaves me with a question, anyone out there interested in a Psych Enthusiast Book Club? If so, reply to this email and let me know. I'm not sure what this looks like yet, but I do know it would be oh so much fun to take a psychologically minded look together at some new and exciting ideas.
What is one of your biggest regrets? I went ahead and participated in Pink's survey and was surprised to find myself writing about a connection regret. Which according to Pink means I value love. Which yes, I definitely do.