How to prevent having regrets when you get to the end of your life
Do you sometimes wonder how to prevent having regrets when you get to the end of your life? I was listening to a guided meditation recently, which was really just some thought provoking questions to ponder. One of them was, “What would your older and wiser self tell your current self to do right now?”
My mind went to “what should I be doing so that I don’t have any regrets when I’m at the end of my life?”
And, my focus was on that old Nike slogan (or is it still their slogan?) – Just do it! This slogan is a little scary though and it’s because of my habit of procrastination which comes from my perfectionism which is basically fear….
Anyway… I’ve done some research on this “no regrets” topic, AND I realized that I have learned a TON of stuff over these past few years about preventing regrets. So here we are…read to the end and you’ll:
Learn about what others say they wish they would have done.
Realize and believe that YOU DO have the power to ensure that you have no regrets.
Learn what you can do TODAY to start making sure that when you get to the end of your life, you will be able to look back and say, “I have no regrets.”
WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY THEY REGRET THE MOST WHEN THEY GET TO THE END OF THEIR LIVES
I’m sure you’ve heard these – I wish I had spent more time with my loved ones, kept in touch with friends, or hadn’t worked so much, etc.
But there are others that, according to an Australian nurse who worked with people at the end of their lives, were top regrets (as reported in The Guardian).
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Someone I met through a group I belong to wrote a book called, Benchmarks are Bullshit (her name is Paulette Erato – here’s her Instagram).
Society tells us what we should be doing and when. We are supposed to graduate high school, go to college, get a good job, get married, have children, yadda yadda yadda.
I definitely thought these things were what I needed to do. But, I didn’t even know myself until MUCH later, so I kinda wish I wouldn’t have listened to what “others expected of me” and just explored and learned what I really wanted.
In the book, Paulette also talks about how “decisions are not life sentences.” I had a job for 17 years and I wasn’t fulfilled at all. But I didn’t allow myself to make a change. Mostly it was fear that held me back.
But it didn’t have to be that way. I tell my adult-ish kids this now. The decisions they make now don’t have to be forever. They are young and can TRY things on and see what they like and don’t like.
AND, it’s never too late – even now – in midlife! We can (and should in my opinion) live a life true to ourselves. And that can change. Today, it might be staying at your job. Tomorrow it might be quitting your job and moving to a different city to start something totally new!
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2. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
What feelings are you afraid to express? For me, it’s usually about the other person. One of my biggest worries is hurting someone’s feelings (and then they wouldn’t like me – sometimes you have to keep digging to get to the real reason).
Another reason why people don’t have the courage to express their feelings is a fear of being judged or critiqued. No one wants to share that they’re excited about something only to have another person put them down, burst their bubble, rain on their parade, etc. And,
And, what about those of us who think our feelings aren’t worth sharing? We might believe that no one really cares about our feelings or that we aren’t deserving of sharing what we feel about something. There may be an underlying confidence issue or anxiety attached to being open like that.
In my younger years, I would keep my feelings bottled up until I would get to a point of explosion. And, that was never a pretty sight. I’ve also learned that being honest really is the best choice. It’s best for everyone.
3. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Why wouldn’t we LET ourselves be happy? That doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?
But, when I think about it, I can see how this played out in my life.
Some people are so self critical that they just can’t be happy. They never believe that they are doing enough.
One of the reasons, looking back, that I didn’t allow myself to be happy was that I didn’t take time to “smell the roses.” I didn’t appreciate the day to day little things.
I was in the comparison trap – feeling like I didn’t have what others had or do enough to make my life the best it could be. So, I was constantly down on myself for not being or doing enough.
Similarly, if your mind is always in the future and you think, “I’ll be happy when ____,” you’re not allowing yourself to be happy in the moment. Do any of these sound familiar? When I get that car I want, I’ll be happy. When I lose weight, I’ll be happy. When I get my house organized, I’ll be happy. When my kids graduate college and get good jobs, I’ll be happy.
And then there are people who always believe that “the other shoe is about to drop,” so they don’t want to be too happy or it will hurt more. It’s living in a state of anxiety, which sadly, can push happiness from the forefront.
YOU ACTUALLY DO HAVE THE POWER TO ENSURE YOU HAVE NO REGRETS WHEN YOU GET TO THE END OF YOUR LIFE
In order to have no regrets, we probably have to make some changes. This may seem scary, for a lot of different reasons, but every day, every minute even, is a new opportunity to make those changes so we can be sure that we don’t have regrets when we get to the end of our beautiful life.
And, like I said before, it’s never too late. We may be in our middle-ish years, but there is always time. These changes don’t have to be huge. Ensuring we have no regrets doesn’t mean that we cross off all of these extreme excursions on our bucket list.
All it takes is changing our minds a little bit.
So, the best way to make sure you’re on the path to having no regrets when you get to the end of your life is to retrain your brain.
And, in order to do that, we will need to overcome the human negativity bias. The negativity bias means that we focus more on the bad things that happen so that we can survive (literally to stay alive). In the days where there was a tiger around the corner, it was important to pay attention to things that could cause us harm.
We want to start focusing on the positive things, the good things that happen every day. Big and small things – from the taste of your coffee in the morning to the smile you got from a neighbor to the bonus you got at work to the vacation you took to the beach.
When we pay attention to these things for a few seconds – for a few breaths – our brains start to put more focus on our happiness feelings, rather than always on the negative. (I learned a lot of this from from Dr. Rick Hanson.)
Because our brains are malleable, it is completely possible for us to totally change what we believe and feel about things.
It doesn’t matter if something is scary, seems unattainable, or is really ingrained within us. We just need to first become aware of our thoughts and that awareness can help us to change our thoughts about all of these things.
When we change our thoughts about the scary, unattainable, or ingrained beliefs, we will undoubtedly begin to see changes in our lives.
Scary can now become “exciting or a growth opportunity.” And we go do that thing (or at least make a move towards it), no matter how scary it seemed before.
Unattainable can now become “heck yeah, I can do that!” And we take action (baby steps are fine) towards the thing that we’ve been wanting to do (and putting off) forever!
Those ingrained behaviors or patterns can be replaced with new behaviors and patterns. Maybe more healthy, social, open, loving, or positive.
So we can stop worrying whether we will have regrets when we get to the end of our lives. Because we know that the things we want for ourselves in our lives are completely possible!
ACTIONS TO TAKE TODAY TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE ON THE PATH TO NO REGRETS
The ACTION you can take today to be sure that you don’t have regrets when you get to the end of your life is to start a consistent meditation practice.
Meditation is a practice that builds mindfulness. And mindfulness can help us be more intentional about what we are thinking and doing.
Mindfulness is the awareness that helps us notice when our thoughts, behaviors, or feelings aren’t really in sync with our desires or goals – like our desire to have no regrets when we get to the end of our lives.
There are other practices that help build mindfulness, but for me, meditation is the one that works best. Plus, meditation helps us in so many ways and leads to improved overall well-being.
The University of Utah Health, Accelerate website reports that, “Regular mindfulness practice improves attention, memory and emotional regulation, increasing gray matter in parts of the brain that are responsible for these functions.”
So, when we practice mindfulness and we notice or pay attention to our thoughts, we can intentionally choose to redirect our thinking and/or come back to the present moment.
Maybe we are avoiding doing something that we know we really want to do, but we are putting it off because it seems scary. It’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but just thinking about it creates a tightness in your chest.
Meditation can also help minimize that fear. It interrupts thought loops that cause fear or anxiety. It can also help us learn how to really relax our bodies, which is where fear and anxiety are held.
Don’t worry if you’ve never meditated or feel like you can’t do it. Most people feel that way at first. But when you know what it really is, you cannot “fail” at this practice.
To get you started, I recommend that you first download a guided meditation app, if you don’t already have one on your phone.
Then, get my FREE Happiness Habits mini e-book and Habit Tracker to help keep you consistent.
When you practice meditation and mindfulness practices, it can lead to being appreciative of the little things, the day to day things that really do matter, the fragrance of the rose that we stop to smell.
Let me know what you thought of this post. And, hey – join us in our private Facebook Group – Over 40~Making the Most of Midlife. We talk about things like this and touch on lots of other topics related to well-being in midlife. (It’s a totally kind and supportive group!)
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