How To Overcome Your Regrets (And Finally Get Your Life On-Track)

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Let’s face it.  We are all busy.

Life happens whether we plan for it or not. There’s always something to distract us from getting around to certain things we know we should be doing.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
-Steve Jobs

Read this next sentence and then close your eyes and think about your answers.

Right now, in the back of your mind, you know you’re neglecting some things you should be doing — what are they?

If you skipped the step above (like about 80% of those reading this) you need to stop reading right now, go back and think about the underlined sentence above.  If you won’t take a moment to do so, the rest of my article will not be helpful to you.

Go back and do it now.

Done?  Ok, let’s keep going.

You know those things you’ve been neglecting?  The hopes, plans and dreams that you’d like to see in your future?

The things that are important to you, right?

Why is it that most people will never get around to doing those things that are important.

In fact, most of you who bothered to close your eyes and daydream for a moment will never get around to doing those things.

It’s shocking isn’t it?

Most will read this article, think to themselves, “Well, that’s nice, but I’ll get to it later”, and then they will continue down the path of ‘normal’ life without taking any action.

Only a very small percentage of those who took the time to visualize the things they’ve been neglecting will actually make a change for the better.

That’s the way it is.  20% of people are doers, while 80% are content to watch what everyone else is doing.

Are you one of the 20% who takes action, or one of the 80% who is satisfied to just dream life away?

Really – be honest with yourself.

For the 80% – If you try to forget about this article, that might work…for a while anyway.

Except — if you ignore the words you’re reading right now, I guarantee something will happen in your life to make you think about them later.

If you choose to do nothing now, this article will haunt you later – unless your soul has already died from accepting the mediocrity you’ve allowed to persist in your life.

Note: I’ve put together a free resource at the end of this article that will give you a head start to getting out of the pit of mediocrity.

Focal Point

Have you ever looked at an image and noticed that one thing stands out above all others?  In the image below, do you see anything that jumps out you?

Frowny Face
Obviously, the red frowny face is the focal point of this image isn’t it?

If you’re normal, that’s what you’d notice.  Is this how you feel right now?

It’s easy to pick out the red frowny face amongst all the yellow smiley faces isn’t it?  The red frowny face is the focal point in the picture.

In life, your focal points won’t always be as easy to pick out as the red frowny face.  More likely your focal points will come to you as a sudden realization.

For all of us, there are instants in life that appear as a focal point, if only for a second:

– You suddenly realize that the ‘good old days’ come to mind a lot more frequently than in the past.

– A family member or good friend drops dead unexpectedly and you realize how short life really is.

– You get laid off from your job and wonder how you’ll survive.

– You realize your marriage isn’t all that you want it to be, or, if single, your relationships don’t go the way you hope.

– You wake up one day realize just how much you hate driving in rush hour traffic every day, to a place you don’t really want to go, to deal with people you don’t really like.

– You come to the realization that the beige cubicle walls and the endless bureaucracy at work are eating your soul away.

– You look at your children and wonder where all the time went, regretting the time you haven’t spent with them.

Are any of your focal points listed above?

If you don’t see yours listed, take a moment to ask, “What is my focal point?”

When you think about your life, what areas jump out like red frowny faces?  What areas feel like they are out of your control?

You’ve had focal points (moments of clarity) in the past where you stopped to think about these things, but so far you’ve allowed life to creep back in and keep you from focusing on how to make them better.

It’s great that you’re thinking about these things right now, but there’s still a problem.

Most people will ignore these focal points in their lives and go on as if everything is alright.

Don’t make this mistake.

When a focal point becomes apparent to you, latch onto that idea and dwell on it. Immerse yourself in the thought and try to get at the root of it.  Question yourself as to why you’ve allowed this situation to exist in your life.  The answers to that question might surprise you.

Most people (80%) won’t bother doing this though.

It’s much easier to bury your head in the sand (iPhone, television, sports, work) and quickly forget about whatever it was that pricked your soul.

I mean, not all of us can do what we want, whenever we want.  Or can we?

Whatever your focus point is, DON’T just bury your head in mindless pursuits.

Don’t you realize that these moments of reflection are really your soul (inner voice) speaking to you?  Your soul or inner voice will nag you to make a change unless you kill it by burying it or just ignoring it.

Here’s a quick question for you…

What were you doing on this day 12 months ago?

Take a moment to think back.  It seems like only yesterday doesn’t it?

But the fact of the matter is that’s been year ago.  Another year of your life is gone.

Want to know the sad thing?

The sad thing about 12 months ago is that you were sitting in the exact same position you are right now.

Reading ANOTHER blog post about motivation and self improvement…

…and making excuses about how you are different and why that stuff would never work for you

…or maybe you read a post like this and thought, “That’s nice.  I’ll get to that later”.

Consider this your wake up call.

DO NOT let this moment of clarity get away like you usually do. Instead, use it as an opportunity to reflect on where your life is headed.  Otherwise you’ll find yourself living a life of continual regret.

When I think about regret, I can’t help but remember this quote from the movie, The Shawshank Redemption.  If you haven’t seen it you should.

“There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret…I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid…I want to talk to him…to tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone, and this old man is all that’s left. I got to live with that.”- Morgan Freeman as Red

If you were on your death bed what would your biggest regret be?

What are the things you’d think about as the sands quickly run out of the hourglass that is your life?

Here are a few examples:

1) Not giving your all when your all was needed

I get it – you have other things that seem more important right now.  There’s too much going on right now.  You’re too tired.  I face the same barriers.  We are all at this point in our lives at some time.

The reality is that right now is never a good time.  But the important thing to remember is that today’s reality will be tomorrow’s regret – if you don’t start making a change right now.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

Einstein

Accept this reality – if you don’t feel like making a change now, you just really don’t want it badly enough.  Will it only be when you’re facing death that you finally realize you’ve missed your chance?  You still have a chance right now.

Making excuses or giving into your fears

We all have fears – every one of us, no matter how successful we are. In fact, the more successful you become, the bigger the fears become.  However, giving into your excuses/fears is a coward’s way of saying, “I don’t want to try.”

“The courage we desire is not the courage to die decently, but to live manfully.” — Thomas Carlyle

It might not happen until you’re facing the end of your road, but realizing that you’ve been lying to yourself for your whole life will lead to a an end where you will only be able to ask yourself, “What if…”.

Don’t live a life dominated by what ifs, regrets, shoulda-beens and not yet.

I came across this quote somewhere and copied it down.  If the author is reading this please get in touch with me.

“When I’m scared to tackle an obstacle, I close my eyes and pretend I’m an 80 year old man who regrets not tackling all the obstacles he wanted to overcome in life. Then when I begin to feel the regret of that old man, I say to myself, “I wish I was young again”, then I open my eyes…And BOOM! I’m young again, with another chance to make things right.”

Are you going to be asking “What if” when it’s too late or are you going to do something right now to change your future?

2) Worrying about what others think

You worry so much that others might think you’re weird that it prevents you from following your passion.

Most of us place way too much importance on what other people in our lives think about us.  How will they judge us?  What will they think if I don’t pursue X (like everyone else) instead of Y?

In the moment, you think their opinions are crucial to your future success and happiness.

Why do you allow the concerns of others to weigh on your decisions instead of trusting your own inner voice?  Maybe you think poorly of yourself based on their judgments. On your death bed none of that will matter.

Do this exercise for me (really for yourself):

I’m sure you can look back to school and remember who the ‘cool’ kids were and how worried you were about what they and everyone else thought about you.

Maybe you were one of the cool kids yourself.

Now, fast forward to today and think about where those classmates are in life and what they’re doing.  Do you even know?  Do you even care?

Maybe you’re still friends with one or two of them, but you’ve lost touch with the majority, right?

The cool kids were the center of your focus back then.  Now you really couldn’t care any less what they are doing with their lives, could you?

Does it make a difference in your life today that they were part of the “in crowd” back then?  NOT AT ALL.  In fact, many of the girls you thought were ‘hot’ or good looking are fat and ugly now – and that jock you admired and wanted to be like – he’s just a bad.

Some of them sound completely stupid when you talk to them now.

Kevin Arnold

 

“In 7th grade, who you are, is what other 7th graders say you are. The funny thing is it’s hard to remember the names of the kids you spent so much time trying to impress.”  – Kevin Arnold, The Wonder Years

And now, looking back, don’t you wonder what you ever saw in those people?

Their looks have faded, their careers, marriages, and prospects on life are headed nowhere.

 

And you wanted to be like them didn’t you?

Don’t allow the opinions of others to sway you from pursuing your passions.  The opinions of others may seem important right now, but remember – later on they will mean nothing to you.

When people criticize you for being different, step back for just a second and realize that what they’re promoting – being the same as everyone else – is the reason they are enslaved in an average life and don’t even realize it.

Maybe you are like them.

They might be perfectly happy there where they are (and that is fine for them).

But you can never be happy there because now you know the difference.

3) Living the life that your family or others want you to live

This is similar to the previous item but I separated it because your family has a major influence on your life, whether you recognize it or not.  Most of us never get away from our family’s influence.

Do you find yourself getting sucked into living the life that you think a good son or daughter should live?

Do you make your important life choices – about where to go to school, what to study, where to work or live, who to date/marry – based on what will make your family happy?

Maybe a family member has told you to follow the A, B, and C formula (good grades/college/9-5 job/401k) for a successful life.

Or maybe you’ve unconsciously adopted their lifestyle because that’s what you learned by their example.

They mean well, but their opinions on your life are just that – their opinions.

It’s only later; maybe 10 or 20 years after setting off on your path that you realize you’re not really doing what you want to do.  You find yourself locked into a pattern that feels more like a prison, all because you blindly took your family’s advice and because you’re now afraid to go against what they think is right for YOUR LIFE.

A lifetime is a long time to live someone else’s version of your life.

Think about this for a second.  Who would you rather take advice from when it comes to your finances?

Here are your choices:

A) Mike Tyson, or
B) Warren Buffett

The answer is obvious isn’t it?

You wouldn’t take financial advice from someone who is in debt and has filed multiple bankruptcies would you?  Especially when given the opportunity to seek advice from Warren Buffett?  If you don’t know who Warren Buffet is, you really should put down the Xbox.

The take away is this – don’t take advice on how to live your life from people who live in a way that you wouldn’t want to model your life.

The number of years you spend living as others say you should is the number of years you will live outside your life’s purpose.

When you were young you learned to obey your elders. This is normal.  Children are not able to make important decisions, so they let others make those decisions for them.  But children are supposed to grow up, right?

You are not a child anymore, so why do you still act as if you are?

Adults accept responsibility for where their lives are headed and make decisions accordingly.

Ask yourself right now – Whose life am I living?  Have I accepted responsibility for my own life, or do I allow others to tell me how to live?

If you’re suddenly realizing that you’ve been living someone else’s life, but still thinking, “This isn’t so bad”, here’s a test for you;

Take a moment to look at your family members’ lives.  Do your family members have the life that you want?  If not, don’t listen or you’ll end up just like them.

Here’s a novel thought – Your life and your decisions are your responsibility.

It’s YOUR LIFE; they’re your decisions to make.  Don’t wait until your life is almost over to realize it.

If you still can’t shake the thought that you need to do what your family says, you may have greater issues that need working out.

You may want to check out an excellent book that will help you begin to correct this situation – Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life – by Dr Henry Cloud.

4) Not Trusting your gut / heart / that inner voice

We all have an inner voice.  Some are in tune with it and listen, but most have ignored it for so long that they rarely ever hear it anymore.

Most of the time you allow your brain to override that voice and ignore what your gut tells you. Your brain thinks that it knows best and figures out a way to prove to you that the safe path makes the most sense.  Unfortunately, it’s only later on that you realize that your gut or your inner voice was dead right.

“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.” — Thomas Carlyle

Do you want to live with no regrets?  Too many of us put ourselves on autopilot and don’t really think about what it is that we’re doing with our time and our lives – until it’s too late.

In order to start trusting your gut, you need to learn to let your heart defeat your mind.

5) Settling for the practical job over your true passion

Most of us think we need to get a college education and then get a ‘safe’ job with 2 weeks of vacation and a 401k.  Heck, I was so bought in that I went on to get my MBA before settling into a career.  If I had it to do over, I think I would have gone a totally different route.

The problem with the traditional plan is most people end up spending 40-60 hours of their week working at an unfulfilling (soul-crushing) job that pays just enough to meet their bills, but not much more.

When you spend that much time doing anything it will affect your life one way or another. If you’re stuck doing work that makes you miserable, every other part of your life will be affected.

Now is the time to make a change!

Most of you are stuck on a hamster wheel, pretending that tomorrow you’ll begin to live more fully but never taking the leap.

The problem is that tomorrow comes and goes faster than you realize.  Are you going to still be thinking of your life’s regrets when you’ve run out of tomorrows?

STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW AND TAKE STOCK OF YOUR LIFE!

IS IT EVERYTHING YOU WANT IT TO BE?

THEN WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?

For most people, all it takes is one step in the right direction — a direction that consists of taking action.

Sustained, positive action overcomes negative thinking.

“Success seems to be connected to action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels

If you can’t stop what you’re doing and for just a moment, take stock of your situation, then I don’t know what else to say to you.

On the other hand, if you are —

one of the few who actually does something and doesn’t just talk about it

one of the few who has decided to take a step in the right direction

one of the few who will take a step to set your passions free and to finally kill those regrets lingering in the back of your mind

Then you should do what I did – I finally got fed up with just imagining that everything would eventually get better one day without me actually doing anything different to make it happen.

I decided that whatever sacrifice or work it took from me, it was definitely worth more than just staying “comfortable”.  I put together a plan to help me get out of my pit of regret and start moving toward making my dreams come true.

What You Need To Do

You have to get to a place where you’re willing to take steps that are beneficial to your future, not just take steps that are comfortable right now.

You can take that first step right now to improve your habits, self-discipline, and goal setting and finally put your regrets to rest.

“This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.” – Narrator, Fight Club

 

 

4 Responses

  1. Daniel Ndukwu
    |

    Hey Daniel, I made it to your site after you got to mine. Motivateyourself.co. This was a great article and it was really full of useful information. It was kind of hard to navigate through though because you did not bold the subheadings. You know when we first come to a website, we scan the headings to see if the article will be worth reading.

    Otherwise great site and good luck with your brand.
    Cheers

  2. Daniel Black
    |

    Hi Daniel,
    Thanks for stopping by. Apparently my formatting was lost when pasting into the editor but it should be fixed now. I appreciate the advice.
    -Regards

  3. […] If you’re anything like me, you think about all the things you want to do in life and say to yourself, “I’ll get to that later”.  The problem is, right now is all you’ve got.  Oftentimes your later never comes. […]

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