Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live your life without regrets? I know that is something I have always wondered about.
Regrets can really weigh people down and make them feel unhappy. Thankfully there are some steps we can take now to avoid those feelings in the future.
In this article, you’ll learn 5 things you can start doing now that will help prevent any regretful moments later on in life or when you are on your death bed.
Focus On The Most Important Things In Life
Life is full of distractions. It is easy to spend so much time on things that will not improve your life.
One reason people waste time on mundane things is that they fail to acknowledge their mortality.
To put it bluntly, people waste time because they fail to acknowledge death. What if I told you that acknowledging death will force you to prioritize your life and live a life without regrets?
There is so much evidence that supports this. In an article by Noam Shpancer, Ph.D. for Psychology Today, he writes, “Acknowledging our mortality can renew our appreciation of the gift of life.”
One clear benefit of acknowledging your mortality is that it forces you to stop wasting time. If you knew you had 6 months to live, how will this change your actions?
Okay, I know that 6 months is too harsh. What about 5, 10, 20 years?
If you realised that you had 20 years to live, how will it affect your priorities? With this knowledge, will you rather spend time with your spouse or go to work?
If this realization affected you, then, you’re human. Here is the truth: every one of us will die someday.
The time is irrelevant. What is most important is that death is inevitable.
Want to live a life without regrets? Let the knowledge of your limited lifespan drive you to focus on the most important things.
When I realise this, it forced me to start spending more time with my son and my wife. In the first volume of my book “Think of Death”, I tell a story of how I used to focus so much on work.
With your mortality in mind, one thing you need to prioritize is spending more time with your family. Don’t get me wrong, it is okay to work.
However, no matter how important work or your career is, it cannot be more important than your family.
Do Not Live A Life Detected By Others
One of the things that leads to a life of regrets is to allow others to detect your life. Unfortunately, if you allow others to detect what happens in your life, it leads to a life of regrets.
The concept of peer pressure is common knowledge. However, people generally assume that only young adults can be pressured by their peers.
This is far from the truth. Adults can also be peer-pressured.
A lot of people make decisions because they want to make other people happy. Why do people feel the need to make decisions to make others happy?
One reason may be because these people want to be accepted within their social group. It could also be that “everybody is doing it”.
Well, everybody will also regret it. So, if you made a joint decision, you should be ready to participate in group regrets as well!
Another reason people allow others to detect the direction of their life is that they simply don’t know how to say “no”. For these people, the idea of boundaries is just too hard.
So, what do they do? Accept an appointment they cannot keep.
Other people will agree to host a guest they clearly do not want to host. Can I recommend that you stop being a people pleaser?
Be your own person by making choices that feel good about. Better still, be your own person and make decisions based on your life goals.
If you refuse to set boundaries and accept anything other people throw at you, you may not be able to achieve much in your life. This will eventually lead to a life full of regrets.
Will it surprise you if I told you that what I have been describing in this section is prevalent within families? Yes, it is.
The family unit is supposed to be a place where members feel protected. Moreover, family members should be able to communicate how they feel.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Most people live in families where their voices are not heard.
If you’re in a family or in a relationship and your spouse constantly disrespects you, you do not have to take it. Need I say that people will give you what you accept.
If you allow others to control your life, you’re likely going to regret it. However, you can avoid such regrets by making your own choices.
Start standing up for yourself from today.
Keep In Touch With Your Friends And Family
As I mentioned in the last section, the family can be a difficult place. However, it also provides the best opportunity for companionship.
Unfortunately, some people do not take family time very seriously. This is especially bad when family members live in different cities.
Another important relationship in your life is your friends. However, friendship only grows if the people involved keep in touch.
According to the author Brownie, one of the top 5 regrets of dying is “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
This is not surprising because when we’re young and mobile, most of us do not bother to nurture our friendships. This is regrettably true for the family as well as other relationships.
In the first volume of my book “Think Of Death”, I tell a story of how I lost my dad in 2010. I also mentioned that I am fortunate to have some fond memories of him.
My fond memories of my dad have now led me to intentionally create memories with my wife and my son. Can I say that, just like most families, my family is not perfect.
However, on average we are happy.
Can I challenge you to make out time to call your friends and family? Do not be so engulfed with work that you forget this important aspect of your life.
Unfortunately, if you ignore this now, you’re likely going to regret it later. If you do not want to live a life of regrets, make that phone call now.
Not only now, put a reminder in your phone to call regularly.
Before I move on from this point, I want to highlight some of my findings when I was researching my book.
One of those findings is that when we’re young, we can easily make friends. However, as we get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to make friends.
This leads to loneliness in the elderly.
According to research published by the National Academies of Science and Engineering, “Approximately one-quarter of community-dwelling Americans aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated, and a significant proportion of adults in the United States report feeling lonely”.
The same report also found that Americans 50 years and over are likely to feel isolated. What is even worse is that this report hinted that social isolation “increases the risk of premature mortality”.
Hopefully, by referencing this study, you would agree that the risk of social isolation increases with aging.
One way to reduce the risk of isolation as you age is to keep in touch with your friends and family. If you keep in touch with them now, it’s more likely that they will be there for you when you need them most – in your old age!
Allow Yourself To Be Happy
If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, it may affect your perspective about happiness. Worst still, if you’re currently living in a dysfunctional family, this may also affect your ability to be happy.
For example if authority figures told you that you were not good enough when you were growing up, this may affect your ability to be happy.
There are some other reasons people may not be happy. In the first instance, some people are not happy because they don’t feel they deserve to be happy.
Secondly, some people don’t juts know how to be happy. Strange, but it is true.
As a matter of fact, some people will question why you are happy because they are very unhappy. For these people, nobody deserves to be happy.
I beg to differ. Everybody deserves to be happy.
Not only that everybody deserves to be happy, everybody should be happy.
Talking about everybody deserving happiness, the starting point is to find reasons to be happy. Not sure how?
I shared some reasons you should be happy in Volume 1 of “Think Of Death”. Here are some of them:
- You’re reading this blog post.
- There is a roof over your head
- You’re alive and breating
- The sun is shinning or it is raining
- You can smell fresh flowers
These reasons may appear simple, but it goes to prove that if you look for reasons to be happy, you’ll find them. On the contrary, if you see reasons to be unhappy, you’ll find them.
I here you say, “Victor, I want to be happy but I don’t know how to”. I am glad you said that.
If you don’t know how to be happy, here are some things that can help:
- Take control of your thoughts and feelkings
- Practice gratitude
- Spend time with friends and family
- Exercise regularly
- Choose to be happy
Always Live Your Your Life In Perspective Of Death
Perspective opens you up to the other side of the coin. In other words, it expands your horizon.
Think about how you responded to somebody in your last conversation. Now think of that conversation with death in mind.
By putting that conversation in the perspective of death, do you think you would have responded differently?
I suspect you would have.
Another way that accepting the inevitability of death can help you live life without regrets is that it helps you to plan ahead. Steven Covey calls this “begin with the end in mind”.
In Steven Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”, he says that one of the habits of highly successful people is to “begin with the end in mind”.
How does this work?
Start by thinking about the outcomes you want to achieve in the future. This outcome could be as simple as “I want my family to see me as considerate and compassionate”.
Or, it could be as serious as “when I am gone, I want people to remember me as a caring woman”.
Once you have defined “the end” outcome, the next step is to define the actions you need to start taking NOW to achieve those outcomes.
If I continue with my example of “when I am gone, I want people to remember me as a caring woman”, you could define the following as actions to achieve this:
- I’ll go out of my way to show compassion and emphaty
- When I’m upset I will not respon in anger
- I’ll acvoid the temptation of wanting to be right all the time
- If I’m wrong I’ll admit it and appologize
- I’ll always consider the consequences of my actions before I act
Another way the inevitability of death helps us is to accept that what is done cannot be undone. There is no need to dwell on the mistakes of the past.
All you have to do is accept the mistakes, learn from them and move on. Instead of dwelling on your past mistakes, why not focus on the lessons learned and move on.
This way, you avoid expending your energy on regrets.
Stop Regrets And Start Living: My Final Thoughts
If we bear the inevitability of death in mind, it can help us live a life without regrets. Accepting that death is inevitable helps us focus on the most important things in our life.
Secondly, if you accept that you’ve got a limited time to live, then you’ll not allow other people to determine how you live your life. Rather, you’ll chart the course of your life.
By charting the course of your life, you own your decisions and have the greatest chance of succeeding. Moreover, this helps you to stop being a people-pleaser.
Another thing that will stop you from regretting later in your life is to keep in touch with your friends and family.
Old age is inevitable; so keeping in touch with your friends and family has two benefits:
1, you enjoy the relationships while you can. 2, by building these relationships, you increase the chances of them being there for you as you get older.
There is also the idea that happiness is a choice. To avoid regrets you have to accept your right to happiness.
Your life has a limited span. So, why waste the limited time you have being unhappy and leaving in agony.
Finally, in this article, I encouraged you to live your life from the perspective of death. Based on available data, this will increase your chances of living a fulfilled life, free of regrets!
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Finally, you may find my other articles on Families & Relationships helpful.