I have a friend.
She and I live far apart but plan once a week Skype conversations.
A plan which means, as I’m sure many of you can relate to, we actually Skype every few weeks and text furiously in between.
friend and family.
We’ve done this for a few years now.
At first, given how we met, our conversations focused mainly on work.
Finding work, pitching for work, marketing ourselves for work, completing said work, giving each other feedback on work…
As time went on, however, our conversations shifted to far more interesting topics.
Life. Family. Relationships. Goals. Dreams.
Each conversation was different, yet for my friend a single thread wove throughout all our talks:
I’m happy working the amount I do. I could work more and make more money, but this amount allows me to spend ample time with my family. That’s important to me.
The words she used changed each time but the sentiment remained the same.
She lived deliberately. She lived her priorities. She said no. She drew boundaries. She was productive–she wasn’t busy.
I didn’t think much about these remarks mainly because they epitomized who my friend is: work as much as needed for bills etc and seize the rest of her time to LIVE and be with loved ones.
Recently this same friend experienced an unthinkable loss.
In the shocked haze of the days immediately following we had a conversation.
My friend shared words I only hope to be able to say about my entire life let alone possess presence of mind to think following such tragedy:
I have no regrets.
Since that conversation I’ve questioned whether I’m living my life such that I’d have no regrets were the unimaginable to happen.
I’ve challenged myself to define exactly what regret means to me (a sense of sadness over what might have been or a wishing I could undo a past choice).
I’ve spent my morning pages pondering how I could be more like my friend and live mindfully and without regret.
Most days I think I’m doing OK.
Most days I know I could do better.
Over the course of my morning writings I’ve written ways I’m striving to live a regret-free life.
Efforts which distill down to five things.
- No comparisons. We talk about this frequently, but it bears repeating. Comparison really is the thief of joy. Comparing yourself to others. Comparing yourself to the YOU you once were. All of it conspires to ignite regret and make the life we are living feel not enough.
- Define what you want. As a one time career coach I find this one to be pivotal. If we don’t spend time defining our goals we are guaranteed never to reach them and to regret a life unlived. If we ourselves aren’t clear what we want out of life, invariably anything anyone else has looks better than what we’ve got! We quickly spiral to regretting not having that (whatever “that” is) ourselves.
- Grab fear by the hand. Nothing sparks regret more than longing to do something and being too afraid. In that instance we are all but guaranteed to look back and think: Oh I should have…. Making fear your friend wont ensure you will live a perfect life, but it will make certain you wont miss opportunities because of trepidation. You wont reflect and regret letting fear hold you back.
- Fail, quit, learn. I’m a staunch advocate of quitting. Quitting, when you’ve realized something isn’t a match for you, opens space in life for something new. Facing “failures” with the attitude of: OK what can I learn here? prevents a sense of regret due to squandered time and effort. F, Q, L helps us transition to the attitude of: You win some, you learn some.
- Remember the windshield. It’s huge for a reason. Glance fleetingly in the rear-view mirror. It’s tiny for a reason. Keeping our eyes focused forward (with memories of the past and lessons learned firmly in place) helps us to fully live and embrace life regret-free.
life without regret is life with margins.
I don’t know if these steps/this approach is how my friend learned to lead a regret-free life.
I don’t know if she was simply born knowing intuitively how to live this way.
I do know when faced with tragedy and the emotions that come with it regret was not one of them.
Very few of us would be able to say the same thing.
I aspire to be able to say the same thing.
- Are you living a life which is mostly without regret?
- If not, have you tried any of the 5 approaches to change course as your life continues?