An article has crossed my desk twice in the past couple of weeks, from two sources I admire very much: Valerie Alexander at Speak Happiness and naturopath Dr. Ben Kim. The article is titled The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, and it got me thinking about the flip-side: what can I do to make sure I look back on a life well lived?
Here are 5 strategies for avoiding regret.
1. Be true to yourself.
Who are you? Who do you want to be? What do you dream of doing? What would make your life extraordinary? Imagine being old and gray, reminiscing about your life: what accomplishments will you want to reflect on with pride?
Live your dreams. Choose the life you want, not the one others expect of you.
2. Don’t “work” so hard.
Get out of the rat race before your kids are grown, your partner is cold and your health is gone. Stop worrying about climbing some unstable corporate ladder or earning more money or enslaving yourself to “The Man” only to come home wiped out and missing out on the people you’re supposedly doing all that stuff for.
Attend to the emotional and spiritual needs of yourself and your family, not just the material and financial.
3. Express your feelings.
This takes courage. If you love someone, tell them. Today.
If something’s wrong, say so (kindly). If you’re not speaking up because you’re trying to keep the peace, believe me, that is a FALSE peace. Inner turmoil results in bitterness over the past, resentment now, and hopelessness for the future.
Promote your own well-being by finding positive ways to express the desires of your heart.
4. Cherish your relationships.
Track down old friends you’ve lost touch with. Find their number so you can call and tell them how much you appreciate them and the relationship the two of you once had. Rekindle a friendship or romance.
Nurturing your relationships deserves time and effort. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Today is a great day to reach out.
5. Choose happiness.
Here’s another one that takes loads of courage! Don’t pretend you’re content with your mediocrity. Be brave enough to change what needs changing. If you’re stuck in a rut, do something different. Choose to smile , be silly, or share a laugh with someone.
You’re allowed to be happy. It’s up to you.
Bonus strategy! My dad gave me this great advice back when I was a scaredy cat little girl:
If you have the chance to do something, do it.
The opportunity may never come along again.
He was spot on. I have never regretted the times I seized the chance to do something new, different, or out of the ordinary. Regrets came when I failed to take the opportunities. Even when I made mistakes, they were times to learn and grow. I don’t regret poor choices nearly as much as choosing to back away in fear.
Say YES to things.
Live a life with no regrets.