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Last Updated on August 1, 2019

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 (You Shouldn’t Ignore)

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 you 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

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Mark Pettit

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

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Last Updated on January 16, 2020

12 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence Right Now

12 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence Right Now

The way you feel about yourself greatly influences how you live and interact with others. If you are confident about yourself, you tend to see yourself positively and actually enjoy spending time with and around people. You don’t feel self-conscious or awkward around others, and that allows you to live your fullest and happiest life.

However, if you’re drowning in a sea of self-doubt, hesitancy and shyness, you often withdraw and isolate yourself from others and avoid interacting and connecting with people. That anxiety you feel in the pit of your stomach when you are around people is holding you back greatly and it is not good for your emotional health and overall well-being. You need to do something about it if you are low in self-confidence or have friends or family members who are not confident.

“Confidence isn’t walking into a room thinking you’re better than everyone, it’s walking in not having to compare yourself to anyone” – Anonymous

Here are simple, practical tips to boost your confidence right now and make you feel and act your best.

1. Stop labeling yourself as awkward, timid or shy.

When you label yourself as awkward, timid or shy, you sub-consciously tell your mind to act accordingly and psychologically feel inclined to live up to those expectations. Instead of labeling and entertaining negative self-talk, visualize and affirm yourself as confident and strong. Close your eyes for a minute and visualize yourself in different situation as you would like to be.

Be your own cheerleader. Experts believe that positive affirmation and good mental practices like picturing yourself winning or achieving a goal can lead to greater feelings of self-assurance and prepare your brain for success.[1] As the saying goes, “seeing is believing.” Picture yourself as confident and soon enough you will begin to manifest behavior that gives evidence to this new ‘fact.’

2. Recognize that the world is not focused on you (unless, of course, you are Kanye West).

That means you don’t have to be excessively sensitive about who you are or what you are doing (or not doing). You are not on the center stage; there is no need for preoccupation with self and perfectionism. As rap music star Rocko sings, “You just do you and I will do me, aight?”

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Forget about trying to please everyone or being perfect. Trying to be perfect and being a people-pleaser puts too much pressure on you and creates unnecessary anxiety. Besides, people are too preoccupied with their own issues to pay much attention to your every move unless, of course, you are a mega famous, super celebrity like Beyonce or Kanye West.

3. Focus on other people as opposed to yourself.

If you are low on confidence, self-conscious, nervous and shy in social situations, focus your attention on other people and what they are saying or doing instead of focusing on your own awkwardness.

For example, think about what it is that is interesting about the person who’s the centre of the party or the guy or girl you are talking with. Prompt them to talk more about themselves and be genuinely curious and interested in what they say. You will instantly come across as confident and warmhearted.

People generally want to talk about themselves, be heard and understood. They will love it when you’re eager and willing to listen to them and really hear what they have to say.

This habit of focusing more on what you love in others as opposed to what you dislike in yourself will not only help you become more assertive and comfortable in virtually all social situations, but also instantly make you feel great about yourself.

4. Know (and accept) yourself for who you are.

Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu, author of the internationally acclaimed book The Art of War, said, “Know yourself and you will win all battles.” Even in the battle with lack of confidence, you will need to know yourself to win.

Knowing yourself starts with understanding that people are not all the same, neither are all social situation suitable for everyone. You might not be confident in large gatherings, but you could be bold and confident in one-on-one and small group interactions. We all have our own unique gifts and unique ways of expressing ourselves. Embrace yours!

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Introverts, for example, have a quiet confidence that is, unfortunately, often confused for shyness. They are naturally low key and prefer to spend time alone. However, this natural disposition affords them certain unique gifts, such as an ability to listen better than most people and notice things that others don’t.

Your uniqueness is where your strength and advantage lies. You won’t be comfortable and confident in all situations all the time. Albert Einstein said,

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

5. Crack a smile.

If there is one sure way to instantly boost your confidence, it’s cracking a smile. Christine Clapp, a public speaking expert at The George Washington University, says that flashing those pretty, pearly white teeth will immediately make you appear both confident and composed. But, the effect of smiling is not just external. Studies show that smiling can also help nix feelings of stress and pave the way for a happier and more relaxed you.[2]

Not a bad return for something seemingly so trite, wouldn’t you agree?

6. Break a sweat—with exercise.

Working out is another great way to make yourself feel amazing and confident. Science has shown that exercising increases your endorphins, helps reduce stress, tones your muscles and makes you feel happy and confident.[3]

And hey, all you have to do is take a walk a few times a week and you’ll see the benefits. What seems to matter—as far as your confidence goes—is whether you break a sweat, not how strenuous your session is, which is pretty cool. Start working out now.

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7. Groom yourself.

This might seem mundane, but it’s amazing how much of a difference a shower and shave can have on your confidence and self-image. And when you spritz on a scent, the boost on confidence and self-esteem is incredible. As it turns out, your favorite fragrance does more than make you smell oh-so-nice.

A study found that a fragrance can inspire confidence in men. Interestingly, the study also found that the more a man likes the fragrance, the more confident he might feel. Another study found that 90% of women feel more confident while wearing a scent than those who go fragrance-free.

8. Dress nicely.

Another one that might seem trite, but it works. If you dress nicely, you’ll instantly feel good about yourself and give your confidence a real boost. That is largely because you’ll feel attractive, presentable and sometimes even successful in nice clothes.

While dressing nicely means something different for everyone, it does not necessarily mean wearing $500 designer outfits. It means wearing clothes that are clean, that you are comfortable in and that are nice-looking and presentable, including casual clothes.

9. Do activities you enjoy.

Whether it is reading a book, playing a musical instrument, riding your bicycle or going fishing, do what you really enjoy and what makes you truly happy often. It will boost your self-esteem, soothe your ego and allow you to identify with your gifts and talents. That will in turn bolster your self-belief and grow your confidence exponentially.

You might not become popular for doing what you love, but you might not even want to be popular at all. Being popular doesn’t make you happy; doing what you love does.

10. Prepare for the possibility of rejection / setback.

Late World No. 1 professional tennis player Arthur Ashe said, “One important key to success is self-confidence. A key to self-confidence is preparation.” You need to prepare for the possibility of rejection and setback.

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Why?

Everybody suffers rejection and setback at one point or another. You are not exempted. The question on your mind, therefore, should not be if you will be rejected, but how you will handle rejection when it comes.

Prepare yourself adequately in every situation to minimize the risk and effect of rejection and so that your confidence is not broken. For example, learn public speaking and rehearse what you are going to say beforehand if you have landed a public speaking engagement. That way, you are sure of yourself and confident you have what it takes to hack it. If you are rejected, don’t take it personally.

Rejection and setbacks happen to the best of us. Take it as a learning experience. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

11. Face uncomfortable situations square in the face.

Don’t run away from uncomfortable situations. Running away from people or situations because you feel scared, shy or timid only confirms and reinforces your shyness. Instead, face the situation that makes you uneasy square in the face. For example, go ahead and talk to that person you are afraid to approach, or go straight to the front of your yoga class! What’s the worst that can happen?

Prepare and be ready for any eventuality. The more you face your fears, the more you realize you are stronger than you thought and the more confident you get. This simple, yet admittedly courageous, act makes you unstoppable. You get comfortable being uncomfortable and begin to feel like you can take on the world. And that is the hallmark of someone destined for great things.

12. Sit up straight and walk tall—you are awesome!

Yes, sit up straight and believe you are awesome. Don’t slump in your chair or slouch your shoulders. Experts say the right stance can not only keep your self-esteem and mood lifted, but also lead to more confidence in your own thoughts.[4]

The way to sit is to open up your chest and keep your head level so that you look and feel poised and assured. And when you get up, stand tall and walk like you’re on a mission. People who sit up straight and walk tall are more attractive and instantly feel more confident. Try it now: you’ll feel fierce and confident just by sitting up straight and walking tall.

Featured photo credit: Freshh Connection via unsplash.com

Reference

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