Regret can be a powerful motivator or a powerful de-motivator. When you spend time wishing you hadn’t done or said something; when you spend time wishing that you could do or say something; you’re wasting your time beating yourself up. If you’ve done or said something you regret; you can free yourself by making amends in some way. Even if you can no longer “undo” something you’ve done or said to another person; you can still make powerful amends by acting in a very different way towards others today. The most prevalent regrets, however, aren’t about things we’ve done: it’s about things we haven’t done. And therein lies great opportunity.
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse that long worked with the dying, wrote a book about the top five regrets people on their deathbed had.
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
It’s never too late to begin living an authentic life. Take the time to take a hard look at what you do and why. Take the time to discover what values your deepest self holds and how they may differ from the guidelines you’ve been indoctrinated with. Take the time to discover your passions and begin living a life that most honours you and your gifts.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
Working hard at something you love is very fulfilling but most of us work hard for someone else and not ourselves. Even if you do love your work, you may not give enough time to the other things that nourish you and are important for you: time for creative endeavours, time with friends and family, time spent doing things that make the most of your whole life. It’s never too late to pursue your dream business idea, or find work that you love. It’s never too late to get your priorities and values aligned. It’s never too late to find work-life balance that enriches your life and helps you avoid regret about not spending time doing other things that you love.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
We’ve all had the experience of regretting something we’ve said in anger but do you ever think about those missed opportunities to say something loving, positive and encouraging? What about times you know you should have spoken up about something but went along instead? It’s never too late to increase your emotional intelligence. You can learn to become more aware of your feelings, learn to manage them, learn to let them inform your behaviour, and learn to express them in assertive and constructive ways.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Have you let your social relationships fall to the wayside? While real-life connections are especially important for your emotional and mental well-being; there are so many virtual ways to stay in touch with others today. Friendships play an important role in a balanced life. Make time to reach out to others, no matter how long it’s been. You’ll both feel better for it.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Happiness really is a choice. That’s what many of the patients Bronnie Ware dealt with finally realized. If you’re not happy today, you can choose to learn more about yourself and how you’re standing in your own way. You can become more aware about limiting beliefs you may have, anxious habits, negative thought patterns and much more. You can learn to construct a coda that works for you in a positive way so that you can choose happiness every day.
Are you ready to let regret become your motivating force rather than dwelling on things you cannot change?