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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

The 5 Most Important Things in Life You’ll Regret Not Pursuing

The 5 Most Important Things in Life You’ll Regret Not Pursuing

The definition of Regret in the Oxford English Dictionary is:[1]

“Feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that one has done or failed to do)”

When was the last time you sat down and asked yourself:

“What hopes, dreams and plans do I have?”

“What does my ideal future look like?”

“What is my purpose in life?”

“What do I really want from life, love and my career?”

How we set ourselves up to create a life well lived versus a life half lived is often more about the regrets we have over the things we failed to do rather than the things we actually did.

We regret more not becoming our ideal selves, or the person we truly wanted to be. We regret living an unfulfilled life. We regret living in fear and not having the courage to focus on the things and people that truly matter most.

What We Regret Most

I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying. — Jeff Bezos

Psychologist Tom Gilovich and his colleague Shai Davidai have found in a new research piece “The Ideal Road Not Taken” that people are haunted more by regrets about failing to fulfil their hopes, goals and aspirations than by regrets about failing to fulfil their duties, obligations and responsibilities.[2]

Published in Emotion, the researchers surveyed hundreds of participants, making a distinction between “ideal self” (not achieving goals they had set for themselves, their dreams and ambitions) and “the ought self” (not meeting the norms and rules they had for themselves or fulfilling their obligations to others), before asking them to list, name and categorise their regrets.[3]

Across the different studies, the participants said they experienced regrets concerning their ideal self more often (72 per cent vs. 28 per cent).

They mentioned more ideal-self regrets than ought-self regrets when asked to list their regrets in life so far (57 per cent vs. 43 per cent).

When asked to name their single biggest regret in life, participants were more likely to mention a regret about not fulfilling their ideal self (76 per cent vs. 24 per cent mentioning an ought-self regret).

“When we evaluate our lives, we think about whether we’re heading toward our ideal selves, becoming the person we’d like to be. Those are the regrets that are going to stick with you, because they are what you look at through the windshield of life. The ‘ought’ regrets are potholes on the road. Those were problems, but now they’re behind you.” – Tom Gilovich

Let us ponder a couple of questions:

What is it that you currently regret most about your life?

What do you most not want to regret about your life when your time is up?

People regret their inactions more than their actions in the long term. None of us are perfect. We are all going to make mistakes. We can often learn from our mistakes, and take actions to rectify problems.

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Many mistakes can be fixed or apologized for. It is the lack of action, the lack of courage to follow through that can haunt us for a long time.

Maybe you never started writing that book despite your love for writing. Perhaps you haven’t set up your own dream business because you were afraid of what people would think if you actually tried.

You didn’t learn that instrument you always wanted to because you were worried you wouldn’t be good enough. You didn’t continue your education because your friends were getting jobs.

Fear of taking that first step. Fear of following your dreams. Fear of pursuing your purpose.

A lot of people wait for inspiration and confidence before getting started. They wait and wait and never actually take that first step.

The thing is, taking action is that first step to ensure you avoid regrets.

Confidence comes with taking action. Making a commitment to follow through and then having the courage to do it builds the momentum.

“If you cannot risk, you cannot grow. If you cannot grow, you cannot become your best. If you cannot become your best, you cannot be happy. If you cannot be happy, what else matters?” – Dr. David Viscott

The things we want to do in our life don’t go away. The extraordinary results we want to achieve in our life, in our relationships, in our career, in our health and wellbeing, and in our purpose are driven by courage and faith.

If we don’t fearlessly pursue these things, we start blaming ourselves for not taking action and the regret compounds.

The Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

But if we are clear on our purpose and priorities in life, you can create the personal power necessary to push through, and take action on the things that matter most. To avoid the thing that can undermine our living a life well lived – regret.

When you make a decision to focus on creating your ideal future, to create a life with no regrets you’ll move from “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” to “I lived a life worth living” and “I made a difference.”

To get through the hardest journey, we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping. – Chinese Proverb

Bonnie Ware’s 2012 book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying tells us much about living a life to minimize regrets.[4] Ware spent many years in palliative care, looking after patients who had gone home to die. When she questioned these patients about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, a number of common themes came through.

The five most common themes were, in descending order:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to life a life true to myself not the life others expected of me
  • I wished I hadn’t worked so hard
  • I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
  • I wish I’d stayed in touch with friends
  • I wish that I’d let myself be happier

The most common regret, by far, was ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me. According to Ware:

“Most people had not honored even half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices that they made, or not made.”

These themes are similar to the ones that came through when Guardian journalist Emma Freud asked the question on Twitter “What is your biggest regret?”[5]

Being held back by fear, self-blame and bad choices around love, learning and loss were the most frequent responses.

The most frequent regrets focused around:

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  • Not doing the right thing/being there when someone died
  • Not speaking up
  • Not pursuing higher levels of education
  • Fear of following their dreams
  • Unrequited or non-pursuit of love
  • Self-blame around anxiety
  • Taking too long to make a change

5 Most Important Things in Your Life

Through all of my research, speaking to clients, friends, family and my own self-analysis of regrets in my life, there are 5 core things in your life that you’ll probably regret not pursuing if you don’t do something about them today.

A lot of the other regrets you may have are a by-product of not getting the core things right.

1. Become the Person You Truly Could Be

We often let doubt and fear hold us back from living a life of purpose and passion. This stops us from constantly growing and becoming a better version of ourselves.

We have a number of things we want to do in our lives, yet many of these things never see the light of day. We aspire to do things, to achieve, to have success, to build great relationships but we hold ourselves back.

We worry that we don’t have the right information to make the right decision. We’re fearful that we’re actually good enough. We’re scared of the changes that could happen in our lives so take the safe route instead.

This leads to regret, self-blame and self-doubt. But it is within us to create that amazing life we want. To see more. Do more. Learn more. Travel more.

It means not worrying about what others think. Not worrying about who will judge us.

Be fully present, surround yourself with the right people that cheer you on, have more fun and take more risks.

No matter how many times you fall you get back up and keep moving forwards.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”– Mark Twain

2. Not Chasing Your Dreams

If you don’t have clarity on your bigger purpose, dreams and goals, it’s very easy to get sucked into daily life.

Sucked into the long hours at work, the same friends, the same activities, the same routines, the same habits.

There is no growth, no change, no transformation. Rather than pursuing your dreams and growing every day you become stuck.

When you have a clear direction for your life, when your priorities are top of mind you are clearer on the steps you can take to move forward.

You know where you are. You know what is most important. You know where you are going.

You are living a life of purposeful, passionate action. You have a lot more fun. You are happier. You are more confident. You are learning and growing every day.

You fully trust yourself, so are willing to take more risks in pursuit of your dreams. Start setting your goals today.

3. Live Your Life, Not the Life of Someone Else

Comparing yourself to others and living someone else’s life can only lead to bitterness, self-doubt, inaction and heartache.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

Your life is your life and your journey is your journey. We should make changes in our life because we want to, rather than because of the actions or reactions of someone else.

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Stay away from negative environments and negative people that can poison your progress, erode your confidence and cause self-doubt to creep in. Surround yourself, instead, with people that inspire you.

Many of us get sucked into living the life that we think a good son or daughter should live, or what our parents ‘expect’ of us.

We often make key life and business decisions because we think it’s what will make our parents happy. We believe our happiness is derived through their happiness.

It’s only later, when we become dissatisfied with our lives that we start to question “Whose life am I living?”

Run your own race on your own terms to avoid feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that lead to inaction and regret.

4. Starting Tomorrow

We always think we have more time than we do. The reality is that we don’t. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so the best thing you can do is start making a chance today.

When you are setting goals, the goals you set are the ideal you in the future. The best way to create that ideal future is to start now, in this present moment, not tomorrow.

Spending just five minutes now doing something significant, in this present moment, could help you move one step closer to your dreams.

It could be a decision you make, a conversation you have, something you read. It could be anything. The point is to focus on the present moment.

What have you been putting off that you could focus on right now?

Do you want to get healthier?

Do you want to exercise more?

Do you want to learn a language?

Do you want to spend more time with someone important?

Do you want to get back in touch with old friends?

Do you want to be a better parent/husband/wife/son/daughter?

It could be anything. The point is to simply get started and take action on what matters to you.

5. Missing Time with Family and Friends

One of the biggest investments you can make in your life is to free up more of your time to spend with the people that matter most.

This is often easier said than done. How do you balance your work commitments with being home for dinner with your family or spending more time with your children?

I would argue that freeing up your time for rejuvenation and focused time with your family improves your work performance, but that’s another article.

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The longer and longer hours at work can cause worry and stress. You’re worried about ‘not putting the hours in at work’ and creating issues with your boss and co-workers, but at the same time your family are also relying on you to be there.

Making it up to your family for the long hours can be a constant struggle. Missing family dinners in exchange for ‘quality time’ at the weekend is a hard one to justify.

It’s really about taking control of your schedule to ensure you are there for both the everyday and the moments that matter in the hearts and minds of those people closest to you.

This reminds me of a story, excerpted from Gary Keller’s book The One Thing:

One evening, a young boy hopped up on his father’s lap and whispered, “Dad, we don’t spend enough time together.” The father, who dearly loved his son, knew in his heart this was true and replied, “You’re right and I’m so sorry. But I promise I’ll make it up to you. Since tomorrow is Saturday, why don’t we spend the entire day together? Just you and me!” It was a plan, and the boy went to bed that night with a smile on his face, envisioning the day, excited about the adventurous possibilities with his Pops.

The next morning the father rose earlier than usual. He wanted to make sure he could still enjoy his ritual cup of coffee with the morning paper before his son awoke, wound up and ready to go. Lost in thought reading the business section, he was caught by surprise when suddenly his son pulled the newspaper down and enthusiastically shouted, “Dad, I’m up. Let’s play!”

The father, although thrilled to see his son and eager to start the day together, found himself guiltily craving just a little more time to finish his morning routine. Quickly racking his brain, he hit upon a promising idea. He grabbed his son, gave him a huge hug, and announced that their first game would be to put a puzzle together, and when that was done, “we’ll head outside to play for the rest of the day.”

Earlier in his reading, he had seen a full-page ad with a picture of the world. He quickly found it, tore it into little pieces, and spread them out on the table. He found some tape for his son and said, “I want to see how fast you can put this puzzle together.” The boy enthusiastically dove right in, while his father, confident that he had now bought some extra time, buried himself back in his paper.

Within minutes, the boy once again yanked down his father’s newspaper and proudly announced, “Dad, I’m done!” The father was astonished. For what lay in front of him — whole, intact, and complete — was the picture of the world, back together as it was in the ad and not one piece out of place. In a voice mixed with parental pride and wonder, the father asked, “How on earth did you do that so fast?”

The young boy beamed. “It was easy, Dad! I couldn’t do it at first and I started to give up, it was so hard. But then I dropped a piece on the floor, and because it’s a glass-top table, when I looked up I saw that there was a picture of a man on the other side. That gave me an idea!

“When I put the man together, the world just fell into place.”

So, in the end, we often truly regret the chance and opportunities we didn’t take.

However, if you know what you’re going after, then you’ll find a way to reach it.

Final Thoughts

Too often, we don’t focus on and spend enough time figuring out how we can live the life that we want. This leads to recriminations, self-doubt, blame and regrets.

It’s not always easy, but if you know where you are headed (your ideal future), have set specific goals and are committed to getting there it’s important to take the time to be clear about what you stand for.

To have clarity around what and who are most important to you, what is your purpose, and then take the courageous steps to focus only on those things that truly matter.

That way, you’re far more likely to create a life well lived, rather than one full of regrets.

More About Living a Fulfilling Life

Featured photo credit: Tom Ezzatkhah via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit is a Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners who want to achieve more by working less.

The 5 Most Important Things in Life You’ll Regret Not Pursuing 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life How to Bullet Journal to Skyrocket Your Productivity 8 Time Management Strategies for Busy People 11 Tactics on Increasing Brain Power, Memory, and Motivation

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Last Updated on June 2, 2020

9 Ways to Reach Your Full Potential Every Day

9 Ways to Reach Your Full Potential Every Day

Why does it seem like time goes by so quickly? We start a week and before we know it, it’s already the weekend. How can you make the best out of each and every day?

I want you to be able to reach your fullest potential every single day. Even during the days where you relax and recharge, I want you to enjoy every moment.

When it comes to reaching your full potential every day, it’s all about planning. If you’re not a good planner, you’ll have to start learning! Those who are good with time management and are organized usually experience a more productive day.

So, how to reach your full potential? Here’re 9 ways you can start trying.

1.  Focus on the Big Picture

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” — Mahatma Gandhi

We live in a society filled with so many distractions, so we can easily get caught up with the stress and frustrations of life. Focus on the big picture. With so many distractions, it’s so important for you to focus on what you want.

What does the big picture look like to you? What are the goals that you want to accomplish? When it comes to reaching your potential every day, it’s important that you know what the big picture looks like.

Why do you do what you do? What is the reason that you go to work or come home and provide dinner for your family? When you have purpose and reason in your life, you’re more able to live out each day to your fullest potential.

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If you are able to see the big picture in your life, you don’t have to just live day-to-day. When you know your purpose, you will be motivated to live each day to your fullest potential: How to Find Purpose in Life and Make Yourself a Better Person

2. Plan!

Planning how you want to spend each day is key to reaching your fullest potential each day. Without any planning, you will just get pushed around and have no direction in life. Reaching your potential every day is about planning your day in alignment with what matters to you.

Focus on what is important in your life. Maybe it’s providing for your family or spending quality time with your spouse. When you are able to live in alignment with that matters to you, you will be able to reach your fullest potential every day.

Plan your week every Sunday evening. That way, you’ll be able to see your week’s schedule before starting your week (6 steps to plan your week). Make sure to add when you plan to start working and end working into your schedule.

It will be important for you to know when it’s time to turn off work-mode and start spending quality time with your family. It’s also important that when you plan your week, you are realistic with what you want to accomplish.

Set yourself up for success, not for failure. Create a to-do list for each day of the week on Sunday evening. Have about 4-5 tasks that you want to accomplish each day. If you have a big project, you should only include 2-3 tasks for that day.

An action that has helped me reach my potential each day is to check off each task once I complete it. It feels good knowing that at the end of the day, I was able to complete my To-do list. Remember, set yourself up for success! Make sure you reward yourself after a long day of being productive.

3. Time Management

Planning and having good time management is a combination that leads to reaching your fullest potential every day. When you’re able to plan out your day and how you want to spend your time, you not only get more done but you also have extra time to spend on what you enjoy.

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Having good time management is important for you to learn because when you value yourself, you will value how you spend your time. Try these 7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity.

4. Positive Attitude

When it comes to reaching your fullest potential every day, it’s important to have a positive attitude. When you have a negative attitude, you start viewing yourself and your life as being negative. How can you possibly reach your fullest potential when you have a negative attitude about yourself?

It’s all about your perspective and how you view yourself and your life. In order to have a productive day, you must have a positive attitude. With a positive attitude, you’ll be able to stay focused on what you want to accomplish every day.

Here’re 11 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude.

5. Stay Focused on the Task at Han

Staying focused takes discipline and commitment. With so many distractions, it’s easy to get off track and not get anything done. That’s why staying focused on what you need to get done is key in reaching your fullest potential.

If you get distracted by your phone, make sure you put it on silent when you’re trying to finish a task. Not only will you be more disciplined, but you’ll also get a lot more done! Anything that distracts you from completing a task needs to be put away.

Learn How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide).

6. Have Goals

If you want to reach your fullest potential each and every day, you need to have short and long term goals.

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Take a piece of paper and write down what you want to accomplish now and in the future. This goes back to planning. Have your goals and have deadlines.

Then plan each and every day taking the necessary steps to accomplish your goals. It’s all about setting goals and then following through.

Find out How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully.

7. Embrace Simplicity

When you want to reach your fullest potential, simplify what needs to get done before the day starts.

One routine that has helped me save time is picking out my outfit the night before. This way, I don’t feel rushed in the morning.

Simplify your morning routine. If you can find different ways to save time and make your life simpler, you’ll be able to focus on reaching your fullest potential every day. When you are constantly all over the place and your life is far from being simple, you’ll experience stress and frustration on a daily basis. Simplify your life!

8. Recharge

You can only reach your fullest potential if you take the time to recharge. When you are constantly working without any rest, you will eventually burn out.

Taking the time to rest and rejuvenate your mind, body and soul will allow you to become re-energized for the next day. Use different strategies that help you relax. Try meditating or yoga.

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It is not only important for you to recharge your mind– your body needs time to recharge too. Reaching your fullest potential every day can become stressful if you don’t manage your time well and take the time to recharge.

Take a moment and think about what recharges you. Maybe it’s spending some quality time with your spouse or taking a nice walk in the park. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you enjoy the process. It’s easy for our minds to wonder, so when you’re recharging, focus on recharging!

9. Enjoy Each Moment

“To get all there is out of living, we must employ our time wisely, never being in too much of a hurry to stop and sip life, but never losing our sense of the enormous value of a minute.” –Robert Updefraff

With so much going on, it’s easy to just go, go, go and not take the time to smell the flowers. Enjoy the moments that you experience throughout each day. This will help you feel grateful and appreciative with what you have in your life. Enjoy the simple things like having a roof over your head and being able to afford food for your family.

Although being productive is important, taking the time to enjoy each moment is important too. This article can help you: How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying

Featured photo credit: Melody Jacob via unsplash.com

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