40 Regrets You Don’t Want to Have in 40 Years
Written by Marc Chernoff // 61 Comments
“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on… I hope you never have to think about anything as much as I think about you.”
— Jonathan Safran Foer
In the final decade of his life, my grandfather woke up every single day at 7AM, picked a fresh wild flower on his morning walk, and took it to my grandmother. One morning, I decided to go with him to see her. And as he placed the flower on her gravestone, he looked up at me and said, “I just wish I had picked her a fresh flower every morning when she was alive. She really would have loved that.”
As you can imagine, my grandfather’s words touched a nerve in me. And over the years I’ve often reflected on what he said that morning, and how his sentiment relates to everyone and everything I care about. God willing, in 40 years when I’m in the midst of my 80’s, I don’t want to sit with needless regrets. I don’t want to wish I had done things differently – especially something as simple, yet meaningful, as picking wild flowers for the love of my life. Don’t you agree?
Regardless of your age or where you are in life right now, perhaps you will generally resonate with my thoughts here – some things I don’t want to regret down the road…
- Spending too little time with the right people. – Sooner or later, you just want to be around the people who make you smile. So today, spend time with those who help you love yourself more. And remember, the people you take for granted today may be the only ones you need tomorrow. Never be too busy to make time for those who matter most (even if it’s just a quick phone call or a text).
- Not making your loved ones smile more often. – The most beautiful thing is to see a person you love smile, and even more beautiful is knowing that you are the reason behind it.
- Not saying what you need to say. – Speak up. Don’t hide your thoughts and feelings, especially when you can make a difference. Be brave. Say what needs to be said. If you care about someone, tell them. Hearts are sometimes broken by the words we leave unspoken.
- Constantly comparing yourself to everyone else. – Don’t compare your progress in life with that of others. We all need our own time to travel our own distance. It’s perfectly OK to be different. Today, the only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday. Prove yourself to yourself, not others.
- Ignoring your intuition for too long. – Sometimes your mind needs more time to accept what your heart already knows. Breathe. Be a witness, not a judge. Listen to your intuition.
- Not taking action on meaningful goals. – Instead of complaining about your circumstances, get busy creating new ones. You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Most of the time, the only difference between who you are and who you want to be, is what you do. (Read Getting Things Done.)
- Letting others talk you out of your dreams. – Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be? Stop living for other people and their opinions. Be true to YOU.
- Vivid memories of wasted time. – There is good reason why you should wake each morning and mindfully consider what and who you will give your day to. Because unlike other things in life – love, money, respect, good health, hope, opportunities, and many more – time is the one thing you can never get back once it’s gone.
- Collecting more excuses than you can count. – If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
- Waiting, and waiting, and waiting until you’re ready. – Sometimes life seems hard, but we often make it harder than it is. All you ever have to decide is what to do next. It really is this simple. You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. Just do the best you can until you know better. Once you know better, do better.
- Not putting in enough effort. – In life you are either a passenger or a pilot, it’s your choice. If you want something, work for it. Do what it takes, not what is easy. It will hurt. It will take time. It will require dedication. It will require willpower. You will need to make healthy decisions. It requires sacrifice. You will need to push your body to its max. There will be temptation. But, I promise you, when you reach your goal, it will be worth it.
- Letting solvable problems stop you. – Not everything that’s faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced. Problems are not stop signs, they’re guidelines. If you want it, work for it. It’s that simple. Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you couldn’t.
- Not taking on enough risk. – Wouldn’t you rather have a life of “OH WELLs” than a life of “WHAT IFs”? Do what you can while you can. Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone. Some of my best life experiences and opportunities came to me only after I dared to lose.
- Settling for less than you are capable of. – Remember, growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.
- Putting your own needs and happiness on the back burner. – All jokes aside, your life only comes around once. This is IT. So do what makes you happy and be with whoever makes you laugh, often.
- Letting impatience govern your decisions and actions. – Patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.
- Giving up too soon. – Forget how many times you’ve broken down. It’s about how you stand up and move on. You may have to go through the worst, to get to the best. Good things take time. Stay patient and stay positive. Everything is going to come together; maybe not immediately, but eventually.
- Letting someone walk all over you, ad infinitum. – Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option. And walk away from anyone who continually robs you of peace and joy. Life is too short to waste your time with people who abuse and bully you.
- Not helping others when you were able. – If you have a lot, give your wealth. If you have a little, give your heart. Just give what you can. No one has ever become poor by giving.
- Ignoring your roots and those who have supported you. – Never forget where you’ve been. Never lose sight of where you’re going. And never take for granted the people who travel the journey with you.
- Not appreciating what you have when you have it. – We often forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but of deeply appreciating what we do have. No, you won’t always get exactly what you want. But remember this: There are lots of people who will never have what you have right now.
- Letting your health go. – Your body is the only place you will truly ever live. If you’re lucky enough to have a body that’s in good health, be wise enough to keep it that way.
- Years of struggling to find happiness outside yourself. – Happiness is not determined by what’s happening around you, but rather what’s happening inside you. Too many people depend on others, or outside sources, to gain happiness, but the truth is it always comes from within.
- Letting too many plans blind you from the beauty of now. – When life is good, enjoy it. Don’t go looking for something better. Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they have. You must be willing to loosen your grip on the life you have planned so you can enjoy the life that is waiting for you now.
- Being too narrow-minded to see the opportunities given to you. – Sometimes life doesn’t give you what you WANT because you NEED something else. And what you need often comes when you’re not looking for it.
- The limitations you put on yourself. – It’s often our own thinking that hurts us. There’s no reason to imprison yourself. Don’t think outside the box. Think like there is no box.
- Letting negativity get the best of you. – Remember, true strength is when you have so much to cry and complain about, but you prefer to smile and appreciate your life instead.
- Never admitting and growing beyond your mistakes. – You can learn great things from your mistakes when you aren’t busy denying them.
- Not accepting responsibility for life changes you need to make. – If you’ve been asking the same questions for a long time, yet are still stuck, it’s probably not that you haven’t been given the answers, but that you don’t like the answers you were given. Remember, it takes a great deal of courage to admit that something needs to change, and a lot more courage still, to accept the responsibility for making the change happen.
- Seeking too much validation from others. – You are GOOD enough, SMART enough, FINE enough, and STRONG enough. You don’t need other people to validate you; you’re already valuable. You are YOU and that’s the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.
- Impressing the wrong people. – Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them. You have to figure out who’s worth your attention and who’s just taking advantage of you. Spend more time with those who make you smile and less time with those who you constantly feel pressured to impress.
- Time spent on drama and needless arguments. – Life is too short to argue and fight. Count your blessings, value the people who matter and move on from the drama with your head held high.
- Letting a grudge hurt your happiness. – Let it go. Grudges are a waste of perfect happiness. Holding one is like letting unwanted company live rent free in your head.
- Endlessly worrying about things. – Move on. Stop letting it bother you. If a problem can be solved, there’s nothing to worry about. If it can’t be solved, worrying is useless.
- Forcing what’s not meant to be. – Never force anything. Do your best, then let it be. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Don’t hold yourself down with things you can’t control. Sometimes you have to stop worrying, wondering, and doubting. Have faith that things will work out, maybe not how you planned, but just how it’s meant to be.
- Getting stuck in the trap of consumerism. – Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t need, to impress folks they don’t even know. Don’t be one of them. (Read The Total Money Makeover.)
- Never traveling when you had the chance. – Once a year, go somewhere you’ve never been before.
- Not choosing to laugh at life more often. – Life is way better when you’re laughing. Being positive in a negative situation is not naive, it’s a sign of leadership and strength.
- Resisting change instead of rolling with it. – You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago. You’re always growing. Experiences don’t stop. That’s life.
- Talking the talk, but never walking the walk. – When it’s all said and done, be sure you haven’t said more than you’ve done. In the end, actions always speak louder than words. So work hard in silence, and let your success be your noise.
If you’re struggling with any of these points, know that you are not alone. With COVID and so much turmoil in the world today, many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and live a life free of regret from moment to precious moment. This is precisely why Angel and I wrote our book, “1,000 Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently.” It’s filled with short, concise tips on how to do just that. And believe it or not, Angel and I review a lot of our own material on a regular basis too, just to center our minds on these positive principles. And we also guide our course students and our private coaching clients through this process on a daily basis.
The bottom line is that it’s never too late to take a step in the right direction. It’s never too late to become the person you are capable of being. Things can change if you want them to, at any age. Even my grandfather found genuine gratitude for all the other amazing ways he showed my grandmother his love every day when she was alive.
Right now, regardless of your circumstances, you have an opportunity to write yourself a present and future with more peace of mind, free of needless regrets.
It’s your turn…
Let’s flip the concept of this article around. Instead of sharing something you don’t want to regret down the road, tell me this:
What have you done lately that you know you will NOT regret down the road?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.
Photo by: Hartwig HKD
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