“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.”
The top five regrets a majority of people express as they approach the final stages of life are:
- I wish I had been more loving to / spent more time with the people who matter the most.
- I wish I had been a better spouse, parent, or child.
- I wish I had spent less time working.
- I wish I had invested more time in the things that make me happy and enjoyed life more.
- I wish I had taken more risks.
Regrets are a normal part of life for most people. But they don’t have to be. If you can grasp and apply these five simple principles, you can greatly reduce the time wasted being regretful over things that cannot be changed.
1. Change how you view your mistakes.
Mistakes, mishaps, and missteps are a big part of life. We are all aware of this, yet no one likes to make them, and we certainly don’t want to own them. However, mistakes are a necessary and critical part of the growth process — there aren’t two ways about it. The truth of the matter is this: no matter how horrible the mistake is, if you are still breathing, you can recover, grow, and thrive in spite of it.
The only time a mistake is truly detrimental is when reflection, introspection, and self-analysis are not done as a follow up. Why did you choose this particular course of action? Did you ignore the sage advice of others? If so, why? Did you follow your gut? If not, why? Was your decision driven by a character flaw (i.e. greed, selfishness, immaturity, lust or lack of discipline)? If so, what are you going to do to correct this?
Learn to view your mistakes as incognito opportunities for growth and embrace them.
2. Live in the moment.
Most regrets stem from not being present in the moment. We live in a world that moves forward at a phenomenal pace. We barely have a hold of one thing before we are reaching for what’s next. Learn how to slow down and be fully attentive to what is happening in the now. If you are in college, enjoy your time in college. Give yourself fully to the experience. Enjoy the campus, your dorm, and dorm mates. Learn how to simplify your life and narrow your focus to one thing at a time. You can have it all — just not all at one time.
Living in the moment should, of course, be done responsibly. This is in no way a license to abandon planning for your future, neglecting to save for retirement, and wandering aimlessly through life without goals. Goals are a very important part of your success, but enjoying the journey is a vital part of living.
3. Focus on who versus what.
If you value who you are over what you do, what you do will have a much bigger impact and be more meaningful in the end. Being loving, kind, considerate, hard-working, and honest will make whatever you are doing a success. Your actions, more often than not, are a reflection of who you are internally and will flow naturally with very little thought. Good people do good things and have very few regrets.
4. Spend your time wisely.
Every person on earth has been given a measure of time. You can’t buy, earn, or manufacture more time. When it is your time to go, you will go — period. This fact alone makes time the most precious commodity on earth. Live your life intentionally and seek to invest your time doing things that matter, bring you joy, and positively impact your environment.
Spend time with people who matter. Not spending enough time cultivating significant relationships is one of the biggest regrets expressed by most people. Learn from them.
5. Live intentionally.
There is a big difference between living and existing. Those who live take risks, make tons of mistakes, experience excruciating hurts and pains in their lives and fail often, but they have very few regrets. One of the greatest gifts we have in life is the ability to choose. You can’t control or choose everything that happens to you, but you can choose how you respond to what happens. Your attitude, outlook on life, the decision to love or hate, forgive and let go, to fight or to live peacefully are all under your control. You dictate the overall tone and tenor of your life.
Throw caution to the wind and choose to live on and with purpose. You won’t regret it.