How to live a life without regret
Yes, it is a bold title. And no, I am afraid I don´t have all the answers. But I do know what people that are at the end of their lives regret, and here lies wisdom that it is worth including in your own life. Because; isn´t looking back at your life with joy and fulfillment what all want?
When I was a young boy I feared death. It would keep me up and night knowing that at one point it is over. The person I am will no longer walk this planet, smell nature or listen to beautiful music. I will be gone and there is nothing I can do about that.
But as I have gotten older, I don´t fear death anymore. Maybe it is because I have looked it in the eye a couple of times. First, getting diagnosed with cancer and then with diabetes. It made me look at life from a different perspective, and instead of focusing on getting the longest life I switched my focus to getting a better life. A life (hopefully) without regret.
So how can I ensure that at the end of my life can look back and be happy and content? As I mentioned it is a question, not only I am asking myself. There´s actually been studies about this, and thankfully we can learn from the people who have walked the path before us.
What people most regret in life
One of the most frequently cited regrets is not having the courage to be true to oneself, but rather doing what others expected. And this truly something that resonates with me. From early on in life, we are told to do this and that. Getting that education will give you a good job. Then climbing the corporate ladder until you reach retirement. And then you can truly enjoy life. Heard it before?
Related to the above is another regret. Working too much. So if you are spending hours and hours on a job, and maybe more importantly, it is not fulfilling to you – then maybe it is time to reevaluate? I needed to hit the wall before I realized this myself, and the diabetes diagnosis was my wake-up call. It made me change my job and start for myself, and even though this choice brings its ups and downs, I am in control now. I live the path I have chosen.
The third regret is not having the courage to express one’s feelings. This is a tricky one. Have you ever opted to keep quiet just to keep the peace? I have, and it usually results in an immediate regret and constantly going over the scenario over and over again in my mind. Pretty useless, and to try and change this I can´t put it better than Bronnie Ware who wrote the book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”.
“We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.”
So, be true to yourself. Listen to your feelings and when you notice you are holding back, take the step and voice your opinion.
But be aware that this isn´t necessarily when you have something bad to say. Think about how often we can say or do something wonderful for someone else. But we don´t. It makes us vulnerable to say I love you to someone not knowing if it will be returned, but it has to start somewhere and we can choose to be that someone.
The fourth regret ties into this as many people regret that they didn´t keep in touch with friends. As noted by Bronnie Ware, love and relationships are usually the only things of true, remaining importance when the end of life draws near. And it makes sense, doesn´t it? How much are your material things worth to you if you at the end of your life lie are completely alone?
The fifth and last regret that I will cover is taking life too seriously and allowing worries to diminish happiness. And this is a big one for me. Over the years I have taught myself to look and plan for the negative outcomes, with the result that it has become me. It has become easier to think about the potential problems rather than the great opportunities that life has to offer, and reflecting on this it is scary how much time and energy that has been wasted on something so useless and that could have been used for good instead.
Living in the moment
Because what people also notice that as they get older is how they are wasting it. Wasting it by not being here – in the moment. With phone and other technologies we are constantly connected and constantly available. I catch myself, again and again, walking and looking at my phone instead of taking in the moment. And if I change my focus there is truly something wonderful in every moment. A tip is just taking a walk, preferably in the woods, and being in the moment as you walk. Listening to your steps on the ground, the birds in the trees and look at how the sun shines and how it warms your face.
If someone had told me this basic tip a few years ago, I would have thought the effects of it would be minimal. But that was my busy mind reluctant to change talking. So when I tried, I also noticed how hard it actually was to do. My mind was not used to this. But I also noticed how practice improved it, and today these moments are truly the ones I cherish the most.
So the take-home message? Be yourself, love yourself and share yourself with the people around. At the end of your life, you’ll realize you don’t care about what other people think of you nearly as much as you believe today, and that happiness is a choice you can choose in every moment you live.
Need some motivation? Check out the video below.