We all make mistakes and wish we had done something different. These temporary regrets are a part of daily life. However, a much bigger concern is getting to a ripe old age and being filled with regrets. Regrets of things not done, of not living the life we truly desired, can be avoided. It requires taking time now, today, to ponder your life and how you want to live it so that at the end of life, you can feel happy and proud!
1) Regrets among the dying
It's quite common for those who are dying to have regrets about their life. I expect that we all will have some, to one degree or another. But why wait on taking action, only to feel that pain and sadness later? It's much better to take action today to limit the regrets we'll experience when we're older.
In a wonderful talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Of Regrets and Resolutions," he mentions three common regrets experienced by the terminally ill.
- I wish I had spent more time with the people I love.
- I wish I had lived up to my potential.
- I wish I had let myself be happier.
Imagine that you were on your deathbed right now.....what would you regret about your life?
This question is by no means meant to be morbid! It's simply meant to get you to start to think. Take stock of where you are right now. It's the first step to making any change.
2) What do you regret?
What regrets do you have about your life right now?
Start where you are. Are there things you have done that you wish you hadn't? Are there things you haven't done that you wish you had?
The point here is not to get down on yourself. It's simply to take an honest assessment of your life to help give you guidance about where you can improve and enjoy life more.
Review your current relationships, your work, your health, your contributions to society. Take a look at areas that are important to you, and see what's been missing. How could you improve? What could you do to be better in some way?
Regrets are meant to impress you to change the future
Looking back with regret is not about changing things you can't change. We all have things we've done in our past that we wish we hadn't. But personally, given that I love my life today, I wouldn't change anything from my past. However, I can still look at the past to get an idea of what I want to be different as I move forward, starting today.
3) Living without regrets
Living a life without regrets is about knowing who we are, who we want to become, and what we value.
Regret = lack of alignment between values and actions
Who do you want to be? What values are important to you? What do you want your relationships to look like? What kind of person do you want to become?
The more time you spend getting a clear, vivid picture of what you want and what's important to you, the easier it is to take actions aligned with those values. If you're not clear about what you want or who you want to become, you don't have a direction to go and you're more likely to end up unhappy.
Most often, we experience the fewest regrets when we have meaningful connections with others. As human beings, we're wired for this connection. It's what brings us the most happiness. Fostering deep connection takes time. It takes focused attention. It takes energy and effort.
My husband and I have recently comitted to spending more time doing things that are fun and make us happy. We value laughter and play, and made changes to make that possible. We also make sure to spend time with our families regularly, even though they're far away.
If we fail to give our best personal self and undivided time to those who are truly important to us, one day we will regret it. Let us resolve to cherish those we love by spending meaningful time with them, doing things together, and cultivating treasured memories. ~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Decide how to improve
After taking an assessment of your relationships, values, and actions, you will have some clear areas where you could improve. Next, make a list of actions you can take to change. Perhaps you could send a kind and uplifting text message to someone regularly. Maybe you could start having parent/child date nights on a regular basis. Or you could take 10 minutes each day to create a new habit. There are endless possibilities.
The steps you can take to improve don't have to be huge! A small, simple step, repeated consistently over time, is what we're going for. By following this process, magical things will start to happen in your life.
Get rid of regrets
- Assess where you are right now in the areas that are most important to you
- Create a clear picture of who you want to become and what you want for your life
- Take one small step today to start living according to your values
What is your greatest regret? What did you learn from that experience?