We all hope to live a life with no regrets – but how many of us do?
Ask yourself this question:
If it were all about to end for you tomorrow – if that meteor out there in space is headed right for us, if that drunk doesn’t stop for the red light – would you have regrets at the way it all turned out?
Many of us have known regret. Some regrets are unavoidable, but sometimes they can take over our lives. As Mick Jagger said:
“The past is a great place and I don’t want to erase it or to regret it, but I don’t want to be its prisoner either.”
And what about the regrets we are in the process of creating today?
Let’s look at 11 things we can do right now so that when we write the final chapter on our own personal story, we can make it a happy ending.
1. First, Celebrate Your Failures
It’s really okay to screw up.
Have you ever watched a hurdler in the Olympics? Have you counted how many hurdles the winner knocks over in that 110 metres? About half of them! They don’t even break stride. Because it’s not about running the perfect race and not knocking over any hurdles, it’s about getting across the line.
It’s the same in football: the only guy who ever makes a mistake is the one involved in the play. So don’t ever regret failing – at least you were giving it a shot.
‘I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.’ – Michael Jordan.
2. Claim Your LIfe
You’re the one bearing the consequences of your life – but are you the one living it?
Do you make your decisions based on your dreams and aspirations – or because it’s what your mother wants, what your father expects, what your husband needs?
Are you always afraid of what others might say about you if you live life your way?
One day life will be gone – imagine how you’ll feel if you get to the end of it and never made any of the important decisions in it. This is something you can change today.
“One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead”
3. Say Yes or No Today to Your Dreams
Do you have a dream? Are you actively pursuing it – or have you left it for ‘one day’?
One Day is the one day that never comes.
So if you want never to have regrets then make the decision here, now, even before you finish reading this post: either say goodbye to your dream or start pursuing it today. That way you will have consciously made the decision to follow it or abandon it. So go for it – or forever be comforted by your reasons not to, then let go.
Then there will be no regrets.
‘Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.’
Sydney J. Harris
4. Don’t Let Your Kids Grow Up Without You
We need to spend time at work if we’re going to succeed.
But we also have to remember what we’re doing for. Kids are not kids for very long – and if you miss them growing up, you won’t ever get a second chance.
‘Your children love you, they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? Soon Jack may not even want you to come to his games. We have a few special years with our children, when they’re the ones that want us around. After that you’re going to be running after them for a bit of attention. It’s so fast, Peter. It’s a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.’
– Moira Panning, in “Hook.”
5. Close Doors
Maybe you did have your heart set on playing for the Boston Red Sox if it wasn’t for that stupid motorbike accident when you were 18.
Maybe you did just lose the love of your life and you’ve got good reason to be sitting on the couch with that bottle and that Barry Manilow break-up song playing on a loop.
There are some regrets we just have to live with.
But unless you get out and try again, you’ll never know if there wasn’t something better, will you?
‘When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.’
–Alexander Graham Bell
6. Learn From Your Mistakes, Don’t Regret Them
Have you noticed that people who regret their mistakes also tend to make those same mistakes again and again?
Regretting a mistake is not the same as learning from it.That’s why we repeat them until the lesson sinks in.
‘The only thing I regret about my past is the length of it. If I had to live my life again I’d make all the same mistakes – only sooner.’
7. Be Afraid of Being Afraid
Before we make a decision, most of us think: What if?
What if I take that job overseas and I don’t like it, or I don’t like the country? What if I ask that girl out and she says no? What if I fail? What if people laugh at me?
Then years later we’re bored with our job, and we wished we’d seen more of the world before we had our family. Or we got to a reunion and met that girl we thought was out of our league, and she’s married to someone else, and she tells you she always liked you and never understood why you never asked her out.
The only ‘what if?’ to be scared of is this one: what if you get to the end of your life and realise you’ve wasted it?
‘As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.’
8. Stop Thinking You Can Tell God What to Do
Many of our regrets come from life not working out just the way we planned it. We stick with a go-nowhere relationship, with a job that makes us miserable, because hey, we had our fixed our sights on him since high school and also, we always said we’d be a lawyer one day.
Because we’ve decided that life has to be this way or we won’t be happy.
And we blinker ourselves, losing the chance to be with someone better, to change direction and find a job we actually love.
‘We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.’
— Joseph Campbell
9. No Sage Has Rage
If you’re like me, your comebacks come back half an hour after you need them. But that’s not always such a bad thing. How many times has saying something angry in the heat of the moment burned off a friend, a lover? You can take back a faulty toaster but you can’t ever take back an angry word.
‘Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.’
10. Don’t Hide Your Feelings
The greatest regret you can have is having someone leave your life forever and you haven’t told them how you really feel.
‘I love you.’
Is there someone you would like to say one of these things to? Do it now – you can never possibly know if this is not the last chance you’ll ever have to do it.
‘The regret of my life is that I have not said ‘I love you’ often enough.’
11. And Most of All, Remember – It’s Not Over Yet
Even if you have a barrow-load of regrets right now, do remember one thing.
It’s not over.
No matter how many mistakes you’ve made in your life, you only have to get it right once.
Don’t look at what might have been – keep your eyes on the prize.
“A man is not old until his regrets take the place of his dreams”
So now you’ve finished reading this, you have a choice.
You can go back to your busy, busy life and carry on as if nothing has happened.
Or you can call someone up and say what’s on your mind, you can think about going after that job, you can call up that girl, you can start walking that Appalachian trail.
Because if you don’t, you may really regret it later.
A life of no regrets. It could start right here, right now.
‘Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.’
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