What is your biggest regret? If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you change?
The word “regret” is defined in Merriam-Webster dictionary as “sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control of power or repair.” The key elements in this definition are “sorrow” and “beyond one’s control.”
My definition of regret would include a bad feeling when looking to the past and wishing we could reverse time to go back and do something differently. It is basically a hopeless feeling over a historical happening that can’t ever be changed.
Several years back I saw a posting titled “Top 10 Things You Will Regret When You Are Old.” It caught my attention and I explored further to see what the writer believed belonged on the list. I think each of our top ten lists would look different, but I will share with you the ten things listed along with my comments.
First on the list was “Not traveling when you had the chance.” This seems to me to be an appropriate regret for the elderly since our bodies age and with the years comes a decrease in our mobility and our health. The author is recognizing that options to explore the world are reduced with physical issues that all who live long enough have to address.
Second on the list is “Staying in a bad relationship.” Being an advocate of marriage, my first impulsive response to this regret was negative. On its face it sounds to me like if a relationship is bad, get out of it and move on. Then as I processed through the statement I went full circle to seeing merit to it. I think everyone should have joy and a high quality of life in their lives. I would hope that before giving up on an intimate relationship every effort is made by both spouses to make a bad relationship a good one.
Third is “Caring too much about what other people think.” I agree with this one. I think with years this becomes less and less of a concern. It is tied to how secure a person is. In our younger years we derive our self worth more from what others say or think about us as we don’t know the future. But I think as we age and the final chapters are written, we realize that most people haven’t been thinking about us after all and we are more accepting of who we are using an internal measuring stick.
Fourth is “Being afraid to say ‘I Love You.’” Amen. We were made as emotional beings. I believe that if we feel passionately about another, we need to be able to tell them. I am not saying overuse these words, but I think there are many people walking among us who have lost important people in their lives and wish they could have said these three words one last time.
Fifth on the list is “Working too much.” This obviously should be on the list. This will tie into the next one. I think it is always a difficult balance between work and family. It is a paradox that at the same time we need to be there for our family we are trying to climb the ladder in the workforce. It is too bad that these two priorities rise to the top of our lives during the same season.
Sixth is “Not playing with your kids enough.” I think this belongs higher up on the list. Most aged people looking back at their lives don’t say “I wish I would have spent more time at the office.” My guess is that this would be a top regret of the average person.
Seventh is “Not spending enough time with your parents.” This is a recognition that our parents typically pass on from this world before we do. Once they are gone we think of all the missed opportunities that we had to spend time together.
Eighth is “Never taking a big risk.” This was number one on the list of a survey of octogenarians. I had a sign on my wall growing up that read “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were built for.” I think human nature is to stay close to home and avoid risking failure. Think through this one carefully and how many opportunities you missed because they involved taking a risk.
Ninth is “Not quitting a terrible job.” If you are going to spend 40 hours a week doing a job you dread, a few things result. First, you probably won’t do your job well. Second, you probably won’t add value to those you work around. Third, you won’t enjoy your life to its fullest. Does your gift set and your passion match what you do for a living? If not, maybe consider other options that might bring you more joy.
And tenth is “Not realizing how beautiful you are.” To me this means stop comparing yourself to others. You are beautiful, period. Accept this and stop the comparison game. There are always others who are more beautiful and others who have it more together than you. Good for them; God bless them.
You focus on you. You are beautiful with a unique combination of gifts that you can use to make a difference. Begin with the understanding that you have a high value and that you have the ability to help others. Then go out and do so.
There you have it. A list of top ten regrets. Do you agree with this list? What is missing? With all the choices we make each day with the world that comes at us, I don’t think it is possible to get old without regrets.
My challenge to you is not to live “regretless,” but to take action today to minimize what may be considered a regret in the future. We can’t change a thing about the past, but tomorrow today will be “the past.” What choices today will prevent regrets tomorrow or five years from now? Your answer is unique to you.
If I could wish a blessing on you today, it would be “May you live your life today in such a manner that you will never regret your actions in your lifetime ahead!”
Just a thought...
Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.
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