In my previous post, I shared with you insights from two authors who had worked with elderly patients who were nearing the ends of their journeys on earth – and who collected their thoughts into books. These books speak to the priorities we should choose in order to live a life that’s free of regret – and find peace. Here, I’ll share my own thoughts on this here, with seven suggestions in which you can avoid regret (and create peace).
- Begin With the End in Mind
Imagine that you’re able to attend your own funeral. What would you want people to say about you? What do you want to have accomplished? How do you want to be remembered?
Use that exercise to write your personal mission statement— your plan for success that clearly defines who you want to be and what you want to do. Read your mission statement daily.
- Be Authentic
Don’t live other people’s dreams. Get crystal clear on who you really are, what drives you, what you love, what you want to accomplish. Stay true to yourself no matter what. Live by design, not by default. Hell on earth is meeting the person you could have been.
As Stephen R. Covey said, “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
- Use the “Death Bed Test” to Make Decisions
When faced with important decisions, ask yourself which path you’ll regret having taken or not having taken, while you’re lying on your death bed. Then take the other path—particularly if it scares you to death.
- Stand Up for Yourself
Don’t be a passive observer who lets life pass you by. Be an active participant. Don’t be afraid to ruffle feathers and stand up for yourself; if you don’t do it, no one else will. It feels scary and risky sometimes, but taking that risk is far better than the alternative—which is the guaranteed disappointment of not getting what you want. Break some rules, forgive quickly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that made you smile.
As the writer Suzy Kassem says, “If you are not willing to stand up for anything or anybody, then why should the Creator take a single step to help you?”
- Stop Worrying
Worrying accomplishes nothing, other than contributing to health problems. The only outcome it affects is your happiness in the present moment. Happiness is a choice. It’s not dependent on external circumstances working out just as you expect them to. Choose to be happy no matter what happens. Smile: it bends the universe. Smile your way through tough times. This lesson will serve you well. Smile and laugh. It’s the shock absorber and lubricant of your life.
- Remember: Everything is Fixable
In 2003, The New Yorker published an article about the most popular suicide spot of the world, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The article featured thoughts from the small percentage of people who had survived the jump. Most of these people reported feeling instant regret the moment they stepped off the bridge. As one young man put it, “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”
No matter how bad life may seem, no matter how much you think you’ve screwed up, no matter how afraid you’ve been in the past—everything can be changed with bold action. Don’t wait. If there’s something about your life you don’t like, change it. Every day should be a New Year’s Resolution. Live without regret and never look back. Stop living in the past.
- Take Charge of Your Schedule
How are you spending your time on a daily basis? Are your daily activities aligned with your personal mission statement?
There will never be a better time than right now to own your schedule. Regrets don’t develop from major mistakes, but rather from the tiny, seemingly inconsequential moments that pass you by every day. Regret isn’t a dramatic avalanche, but rather an imperceptible erosion. Most people are too busy making a living that they forget to live.
The Dalai Lama sums it up perfectly: “What surprises me most is man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present; the result being he doesn’t live in the present or the future. He lives as if he’s never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”
Live Like You’re Dying
Tim McGraw’s song, “Live Like You Were Dyin’” talks about a man diagnosed with something serious that “stopped [him] on a dime,” after which, he says, “I spent most of the next days, lookin’ at the x-rays, talkin’ ’bout the options and talkin’ ’bout sweet time.”
It’s a strange song, honestly—because who isn’t dying? We don’t need a terminal diagnosis to tell us that. Our days are finite. One day, they will indeed run out. The death rate is 100%.
Live like you were dying. Because you are.
Or to quote Kurt Vonnegut, “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been.’”
In my next post, I will talk about how you can embrace another Freedom – by freeing yourself from your self through the being generous.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you make the most of every moment of every day. Do you have a plan, or do you have to remind yourself to live in the moment and profit from what you’re doing? Than you for sharing.
Secure your copy of the “5 Day Weekend” book. 5 Day Weekend: Freedom to Make Your Life and Work Rich with Purpose [Nik Halik & Garrett Gunderson]