I came across this really interesting list today of the top 37 things we’ll regret when we’re old. I encourage you to check out the entire list, but I wanted to share a few of the ones that spoke loudest to me.
6. Being scared to do things.
As my good friend, Shaun T likes to tell me sometimes after I work out with him, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So get uncomfortable every day.” How many times have I passed on an opportunity because I was scared, or because it was outside of my comfort zone? What the hell am I afraid of? And what’s really the worst that can happen? Jamie Foxx likes to say, “On the other side of fear is freedom.” Have truer words ever been spoken? For the last five minutes I’ve been trying to think of a time where I regretted doing something I was initially scared to do. I can’t come up with anything, so I’m just not going to be scared to do things!
15. Caring too much about what other people think.
If I were Cher, and I was able to turn back time, I would go back and slap myself in the face hundreds of times over the years for putting one ounce of thought into whether other people would think I was “cool” for doing/wearing/saying something. What an utter waste of time and energy to worry about what anyone else thinks. I guess it comes with age and experience that I’ve come to the realization that anyone who is going to give you crap for being “uncool” is not someone you want to hang out with anyway. One of my main goals as a high school teacher is to get my students to realize this ASAP. We miss out on so many potentially cool opportunities when we care what other people think.
23. Working too much.
I’ve been pretty lucky in life to have mostly worked in jobs that I like. But at the end of the day, it’s still work. Choosing work over family is always going to be inexcusable, regardless of the situation. There will always be more work to do, but there won’t always be more time to spend with your family. I remember a friend of mine leaving a job that she really liked many years ago in order to pursue a different opportunity. Her boss said to her, “You will be missed dearly. But this company was around before you got here, and it will continue to be around after you leave.” We all have a tendency to think the world will fall apart if we don’t reply to that email right away, but in reality, the world is going to keep on spinning even if we NEVER reply to that email. I try to make the conscious decision to work to live instead of living to work.
25. Not stopping enough to appreciate the moment.
I had an epiphany recently. I was walking to pick up my daughter from preschool. I was looking a few feet in front of me as I walked, and my mind was somewhere other than walking to pick up my daughter. I then looked up and noticed the majestic eucalyptus trees in the distance. They were swaying back and forth with an ease that seemed too easy for objects of their impressive stature. Their dark green leaves were shining against the sun-soaked, ocean-blue sky of Santa Cruz. I realized that instead of looking at the big, beautiful picture of this universe in which I’m connected, I often focus mindlessly on what is directly in front of me, thus missing out on and failing to appreciate true beauty. I also realized that I have the power to choose what I focus on. There is beauty in every scene and every moment if I make the conscious effort to see it.
35. Not spending enough time with loved ones.
None of us will be here forever. In fact, as adults, we have already spent about 90% of the total time on earth we will get to spend with our parents. Think about it: we live with our parents for 18 years, maybe a few more than that, seeing them every day and yearning to move out on our own. And then many of us go off to college, get a job, get hitched, have kids, and we see our parents 5-10 times per year, if we’re lucky. We can say the same about our siblings, our childhood friends, our college friends, and our work friends. We always, especially as parents, have an excuse to turn down an invitation to do something with family or friends. But excuses are like butt holes. Everyone’s got ’em and they all stink. I can’t imagine being on my deathbed thinking to myself, “I wish I would have worked more and spent less time with my family.” Our time is finite, so we need to grab hold of every opportunity we have to spend time with loved ones.
37. Not being grateful sooner.
At 41 years old, I believe that the key to happiness is simply figuring out how to be grateful. Whether it be a “Jar of Awesome” or a daily gratitude journal, the more for which we acknowledge being grateful, the easier it becomes to find some good in every situation, and in every person. I just finished reading Tony Robbins’ financial book Unshakeable. At the end of the book, he talks about how our brains are hard-wired to look for danger and to point out the worst-case scenarios in order to help us survive. When we allow our brains to simply go without being directed, they work to keep us alive. And our brains are damned good at keeping us alive! They point out all of the potential dangers to our physical and emotional well-being. But left to work on their own, our brains will bring us constant stress and anxiety through trying to keep us safe. Robbins has found an alternative he calls the beautiful state. By consciously being grateful for things big and small, we can live in this beautiful state more frequently, because we can’t be grateful and angry at the same time. There is a brief, but amazing exercise that he explained to Tim Ferriss a while back. I cannot recommend this exercise enough. I’ve only done it a few times, but I’ve felt extreme inner peace each time I’ve tried it. Bottom line: I have SO much for which to be grateful.
If any of these speak to you, or if some of the others from the original article jump out at you, I’d love to hear about it. In the meantime, let’s continue to work toward eliminating the possibility of regret when we’re older. Good luck!