As I have got older and time appears so much more precious, this has become a topic of increasing importance to me. When I write about having no regrets, this is not just classic death bed regrets, I am also referring to having no regrets when my children have grown older, with how I run my business, with my fitness and well-being goals and so much more.
“Don’t wait until your dreams become your regrets.” ― Anthon St. Maarten
Our lives are ever-changing. They will never be the same as they are today or were yesterday. People can waste a lot of time trying to recapture what they had or figure out where they are going. Looking back later in life (we often reflect too late), we realise that we wasted a lot of time focusing on the wrong things which leads to regrets.
Regrets come in a variety of unpleasant packages, but it turns out people’s biggest, most enduring misgivings when looking back at their lives have to do with not being all they could have been and not living up to their potential, being someone they know they could have been or their ideal selves, a recent study published in the journal Emotion confirmed.
These “ideal-related regrets” — like settling for a stable career instead of following a passion, marrying a “safe” partner instead of pursuing a truly special love interest, never starting a business or traveling around the world — were more painful than regrets about not living up to responsibilities.
Regret can have damaging effects on mind and body. A recent research, reported in the AARP Newsletter, shows regret can result in chronic stress, negatively affecting hormonal and immune system functioning. So, it’s important to find out how to control this ubiquitous and complicated emotion.
While we strive to keep focused on the right things in life, it is important that we recognise and avoid those behaviours that will keep us from living a happy fulfilled life. Below are the top 11 things you can do to save your future-self from regrets, according to studies and authors I have read on this topic.
1. Don’t live someone else’s vision
“You might want to decide fast. We live in a dangerous world. If you see a chance to be happy, you have to fight for it, so later you have no regrets.” ― Ilona Andrews, Magic Bleeds
If you make decisions based on someone else’s vision for you, you will usually be disappointed. Spending your time trying to be someone you are not, will leave you empty and unfulfilled. Concentrating on other people’s perceptions of you will rob you of the opportunity of self-discovery and rob you of the chance to live YOUR authentic life. Instead of responding to the judgments of others, search your heart for what is true and right to you. You don’t have to answer to anyone about your self-view. Neither perfection nor conformity will impress or inspire others. What will inspire them is authenticity and the courage to live life on your terms.
Read this article for more on this specific topic: How to live life on your own terms.
2. Don’t allow someone else to write your story
“We have to let go of all blame, all attacking, all judging, to free our inner selves to attract what we say we want.” – Joe Vitale
most wonderful gift in life is discovering who you are through owning your
story. Everyone’s story is a compilation of wins, losses, mistakes, and
heartaches. Regardless of what your story holds, learn to love it and tell it
in a way that aligns with your core self. No one has the right to tell you how
your story will end or how it should end. This is your story and your story
only. Own it! And most importantly, learn to love it.
Create a progressive narrative of your own experience of life, tell it richly to yourself and others.
3. Don’t spend time with the wrong people
“Surround yourself with the right people, and realize your own worth. Honestly, there are enough bad people out there in the world – you don’t need to be your own worst enemy.” – Lucy Hale
Associating with negative, gossipy or complaining people is a complete waste of your time. Who you associate with and allow yourself to be influenced by is a choice and because you are influenced by those you spend time with, make sure to surround yourself with people who align with and support your goals, visions, and dreams. Look for people who provide solid honest feedback with your greatest intention in mind. Your inner circle should challenge you to be the best version of yourself and leave you feeling like a better person.
4. Don’t Become self-centered
“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” ― Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
Always focusing on yourself is tiring and rarely makes you an interesting person. Create a life based on good character. Include as many benevolent loving deeds as you can. Others are inspired by generosity and kindness and will remember how you made them feel long after the gift is gone. What you do for yourself and think about yourself will be wasted while what you do for others will spread happiness. This not only touches the soul of others but will resonate with your own soul in a way that far surpasses any benefit you may get from self-focus.
5. Look inward and reflect honestly
“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” ― Shannon L. Alder
It is easy to point the finger at others and ignore our role in situations but if you want to truly evolve and grow, you must be able to take a deep introspective look at yourself. We waste a lot of time arguing with reality to avoid the pain of our own actions. This fractures our relationships, invites negativity into our lives and keeps us from becoming the wonderful person we want to be. If you are willing to understand and acknowledge your behaviour, you will position yourself for long lasting happiness and success.
6. Practice self-compassion
“I don’t do regrets. Regrets are pointless. It’s too late for regrets. You’ve already done it, haven’t you? You’ve lived your life. No point wishing you could change it.” ― Lemmy Kilmister
Ironically, you will regret living with regrets. When we focus on what we lost, what we should’ve or could’ve done to change a situation we waste our time and energy. There is no way of knowing if different behaviours would have led to better outcomes. Different behaviours will lead to different outcomes not necessarily better ones. You made a choice at the time that you felt was right. Looking into the rearview mirror to second guess that choice has limited benefit (though effective reflection is something I wholly recommend).
Of course, it may not be possible to rid yourself instantaneously of all feelings of responsibility for events you regret. This is where self-compassion comes in. According to researchers Zhang and Chen (2016) at the University of California Berkeley, one of the most effective strategies for overcoming your regrets is self-compassion. Pull out the lesson and let go of regret. Life isn’t a sum of the mistakes we have made, but a compilation of lessons we have learned and the proof of that is in the growth we achieve.
This is a good read to help in this regard: Why is self-compassion important? And how to advance it with self-hypnosis.
7. Stop taking everyone’s advice
Don’t listen to everyone. You can ask the same question of ten people, and get ten different answers. If you have an important question about your life path, or a big decision, don’t make the mistake of going with ten different people’s answers. Go straight to the top for answers, not straight to your Facebook status.
“Follow your heart. Do what you love. Because I was constantly struggling with that. If it’s in your heart, go for it. Don’t listen to other people.” – Maz Jobrani
It’s OK to get the opinion of others, but not too many people. Ultimately, you have to trust your own intelligent reasoning combined with some of your instincts.
8. Stop being a control freak
“Being a control freak is a weakness, not a strength. If you can’t allow others to shine, you’re exhibiting signs of narcissism and showing a lack of self-confidence. It is isolation through ego.” ― Stewart Stafford
try to control the uncontrollable.
Life is meant be touched, not strangled. Sometimes you just need to let go and trust the process as hard as that might be. We seem to feel if we can micromanage every little process that we can control the outcome but that isn’t always the case. There are many times when we do this that we create an outcome based on our limited view of something and we miss the experience of the journey. You don’t always have to understand the journey and in the end, when you land somewhere great, it may all make perfect sense. Learn to embrace the uncertainty and allow life to guide you to a place you may never have thought was possible.
9. Never settle for less than you deserve
“If you don’t know what you want, you’ll never find it.
If you don’t know what you deserve, you’ll always settle for less.
You will wander aimlessly, uncomfortably numb in your comfort zone, wondering how life has ended up here.
Life starts now, live, love, laugh and let your light shine!”
― Rob Liano
This is where the right people come in handy as sometimes we forget or refuse to accept that we deserve the best and settle for less. Just taking what comes your way will shortchange your life. Waiting for what you want and deserve is hard and scary but well worth it. Knowing what you want is step one. Believing you deserve that is step two and going after it unfalteringly is step three. Never lose focus of this process and think you have to give up and settle. Never.
10. Stop focusing so much on tomorrow
“I personally believe this: We have only today; yesterday’s gone and tomorrow is uncertain. That’s why they call it the present. And sobriety really is a gift… for those who are willing to receive it.” ― Ace Frehley, No Regrets: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir
When you constantly focus on getting to the other side of situations, you reach to a point where you miss all the experiences of the journey. When you have this mindset, you experience life on fast forward. Maintain a silent knowledge that you will get there and take the journey as it comes. Each step, each day holds something magical so take the time to discover those gifts. Your future self will thank you.
11. Waiting for your happy ending
“When we live each day with kindness, compassion, and communicative love, there is no business left unfinished. There are no regrets or words we should have said, but didn’t. There is no need for closure or forgiveness or apology of any kind.” ― Tyler Henry, Between Two Worlds: Lessons From the Other Side
Life isn’t a fairy tale. What I mean by this is there isn’t always a happy ending at the end of a bad experience but there is always a lesson. Some of these lessons can be quite painful and take a considerable amount of time to heal from. You won’t get through these experiences by waiting for someone to rescue you. You will be required to wade your way through them to the other side. Stop daydreaming of a better life. Stop waiting for your white knight to ride in on his or her horse and start doing. You will regret nothing more in life than waiting for someone else to fix things for you, when you had the power all along to do it. Take full responsibility for your life and find whatever means possible to figure it out. You are important and valuable not only to others but to yourself. The sooner you learn that are have the power to say, “This is not how my story is going to end” and begin to take control of that ending, the sooner you will find happiness.
The only constant in life is it’s unpredictability so take every minute like its your last and live your life to the fullest. Remember, just because something ends doesn’t mean it never should’ve been. You live, you learn, you grow and you move on.
“Self-reflection is a much kinder teacher than regret is. Prioritize yourself by making a habit of it.” ― Andrena Sawyer
Think about what your future self would say to you right now and tell yourself that. Your present self will thank you immensely.
I’ll leave you with this rousing song on our theme today….
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Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
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Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book, it’ll help you advance eating habits!