As much as I try to live without regret, one evening recently I was eating guacamole with an old colleague of mine at a Mexican restaurant. And, after a few years of luke-warm friendship, we ran out of things to say within 17 minutes. I knew because I looked at my phone. It was 6.17PM.
I had at least another 45 minutes with this friend and I didn’t know how we were going to fill it.
Immediately I felt a pang of regret at agreeing to meet.
She’d followed up a few times and I gave in to her guacamole and margarita suggestion (I’m a sucker for both). Plus, due to us formerly working in the same industry together, I felt obliged by a weird sense of history. Do you ever feel like that?
The moment I saw my phone light up with 6.17PM I knew one thing…
I was not going to do this again!
Not see her exactly. But agree to commitments purely out of obligation. And I wasn’t going to feel guilty about it, either.
Because feeling regret is worse. And to compound this irritating remorse (that even the nice tequila couldn’t quell), I was missing my husband. I hadn’t seen my him in almost 2 days because I’d been running from meeting to meeting in New York. I chose a loose peripheral friend instead of an early dinner with him. Not again!
This is a not a monumental thing to regret, I know. But over time, added up, these things control your life experience. As the old saying goes, “how you spend your days is how you spend your life.” And I want a no regrets life.
Here is how to make sure you have no regrets in your life before before your time here comes to an end.
1. Speak up
In my twenties, I was nervous to speak up in corporate meetings. I thought everyone knew more than I did. Newsflash: they don’t. But my ego, ironically, kept me quiet.
Now I let my past fears inform my current fears.
If I’m afraid to ask a question now or afraid to raise my meeting in a meeting (online or offline) I just do it. Because I know my tendency is to shy away. No-one else’s question is better or smarter than yours, I promise. Yep – no regrets!
2. Do the thing, don’t think about the thing
My husband is naturally more cautious and considered than I am. He says I rush, I’m too quick to pull the trigger on a new product or idea and that I should think things through more before I act.
But we will always butt heads on this one!
Because I’d rather have a lot of things to show for my life (mistakes and all!) than a million ideas never executed. Ideas are overrated. Execution is where the magic happens! What do you want to do? Live in Europe? Buy a puppy? Write a book? Do it now! Again – no regrets!
3. Know today is your life
Are you present right now? Like, right now? Think about it.
How does your body feel? What can you hear, see, smell, touch?
I overheard someone say recently, “I can’t wait for my life to begin.” I wanted to grab the poor stranger by the shoulders and give her a loving shake. This is your LIFE! This moment. This day. This very minute. It ain’t happening anytime in the future. And the future is promised to no-one. You can shape yours however you please.
4. Embrace current uncertainty
Everyone always experiences some uncertainty because life is dynamic. And there are no guarantees.
After leaving a great job in Sydney, Australia, I moved to New York at age 25 with no professional network or promising career prospects.
It took me three months to get hired. And those three months were torture!
I was constantly worried about money and concerned I would never be employed again.
During that time, I took yoga every day to give me a reason to leave my apartment and so I could make friends in a new city. Ironically, even hatha yoga classes couldn’t help me de-stress. I was impatient during the meditations. All I could think about was checking my phone after class for job interview updates.
Looking back, I regret not milking every minute and truly exhaling in that gorgeous yoga studio. If I had that time back now, it would be a VERY different story. I’d sleep in. Nap. Sip in coffee shops (and actually taste my coffee). And get a hobby.
If you ever find yourself out of work (or unhappy at work), think… is now a good time to get real about that Side Hustle so that you’re never in this position again? A Side Hustle is a sure fire way to live with no regrets! You’ll be creatively fulfilled and have more cash in your pocket. What’s cooler than that?
5. Like what you’ve got
My friend Alexis and I were looking at old photos of ourselves a little while ago and she gasped, “Oh my God, I looked like that in my 20s? I can’t believe I thought I was fat!” Funny, isn’t it? As I looked at photos of myself I also thought, Why was I so hard on myself? I was cute!
Now is the youngest you’ll ever be. What are you not appreciating?
Trust me – the photos you take today that may leave you feeling dissatisfied, you’ll love in 10 years. I remember those past harsh criticisms when looking in the mirror today and allow myself to let current criticisms go. If not, I know I’ll regret not appreciating the woman I am right now. It’s much smarter (and more freak in’ rationale) to like what you’ve got.
Imagine if we obsessed over all of the things we love about ourselves. I put it on Instagram a while ago, and I mean it: Imagine if we obsessed over all of the things we love about ourselves.
You can begin by picking one thing you love about yourself every morning and state it aloud before the mirror. Say: “Awesome hair day!” or “hell yes for jeans season!” Do it. Seriously. Notice the immediate shift in how you feel (and enjoy it). Yep – no regrets!
6. Chill out about change
Routine allows us to go through life without thinking too much.
Change forces us to look at things with fresh sight.
Think about when you are on holiday – the architecture, daylight, menus, people – they’re all different. It brings us into the present moment and it’s like we actually see things again. When I first moved to Manhattan eight years ago I was in awe of all of the cultural and physical differences – from the constant sirens to the 24-hour restaurants to the street food and all of vibrant, colorful, outspoken people. When I have visitors, I love to see things from their eyes and hear them comment on all of the things that they notice. It makes it all new to me again in those moments too. We don’t feel this way on our daily commute to work or buying coffee from the same barista every morning for six years.
What change might be waiting for you?
7. Tell people how you feel
One of the biggest regrets I’ve heard as a life coach is the sadness, frustration and loneliness people experience when they fail to communicate their true feelings. Did someone upset you? Let them know. You can do it in a loving way. Do you love someone but haven’t ever voice it (because that’s not how your family does things?) Maybe now’s the time to break the tradition. Write it in a card if that’s easier! A lot of regret pervades our experience later in life when we leave words unsaid and make wild assumptions that people psychically know how we feel. Or all the regrets in life you can have, this one may way heaviest on your heart.
8. Put your needs first
One of my favorite books is Bronnie Ware’s international bestseller The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Ware was a hospice nurse in Australia for several years and cared for patients in the last few weeks of their lives. She writes with incredible clarity how similar regrets surfaced again and again. The biggest regret most people I had was, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Ware writes, “When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.” What are you not pursuing? What are you not making real?
Time passes whether you honour your dreams or not. Contrary to popular option, it’s a generous act to live for yourself. Because in doing this, you (whether you realize it or not) inspire others to do the same. And that’s the greatest gift you can bestow on anyone – to live a life true to their desires. That’s where the magic happens.
For me? I’m people pleasing less. Asking more questions. Getting excited about (and less nervous over) what the months ahead will bring for me. And still enjoying tacos and margaritas in the moment with people who know how much I love them.
P.S. Starting a side hustle changed my life and when it comes to fulfilling my purpose, I’m living 100% regret free. Interested in starting one? Check out my free workshop here.