Have you ever made a list of things to accomplish, places to go, experiences you would like to have before you are no longer able? Some people have, while others don’t think about it much. For those who think about such things they have one profound fear, regrets. All of us have regrets, regrets for things we said or did in the past, regrets for actions taken or not taken in the past, regrets for things not tried or done we felt we should have gotten to. If you never made of listing of things to do you are not quite off the hook, you to will have regrets.
We should not let these regrets shape or steer our present of future. For most of us actions we want to take go beyond our normal comfort zone. They are uncharacteristically bold and daring. This element makes them more attractive and draws us to them like the moth to the flame. White-water rafting, sky diving, going to Alaska, entering a dance contest, hitting the winning home run, hunting big game with a musket rifle. All these things are items on either some peoples written to do list or mental to do list. They are things that seemed like a good idea at the time to try or do for various reasons.
The largest problem with to do lists, whither mental or written, is they are lists. They may be good at organizing things and keeping us from forgetting things but that is all they are… a list. If we want to accomplish something we have to develop an action plan. Now I am not talking about a detailed risk assessment and complete contingency, but rather a series of events to prepare and accomplish your goal.
If you want to climb Mt Everest then learn what has to be done before you go and what you will need to do this spectacular event. Besides the oblivious things like time tables, passport, travel to and from, equipment, etc. you will need to get into shape, practice on smaller ridges, acclimate yourself to the conditions, exercise in thin oxygen areas, learn knot tying and the local language, read about other’s experiences. Preparation is the next step toward doing. If during this process you change your mind that is fine for you will never wonder about this event on your list again!
Many of us wish we could do things and might feel cheated because we never got to them but there is a difference. I always wanted to be a pilot; I loved airplanes and made numerous models, bought books, dreamed of it. As time went on I realized the best I could hope for was piloting a small commuter turbo prop, and that did not appeal to me. I had replaced that dream with completely different ambitions and things I want to do. I do not regret never learning to fly, I found out it wasn’t for me. There are things I want to do and did them, every one required determined effort to do. This effort makes the process much more rewarding the separates the fantasy from the accomplishable.
Every journey is comprised of thousands of steps and the hardest one is always the first. The harder the more complicated the journey the more rewarding it is. Remember if something is worth doing it is worth doing right. Extend our lesson on purpose to this one, it will improve your chances of accomplishing your task. Whither it be going to see your favorite music group in concert, learn a foreign language, or head a multimillion dollar global corporation you must know what steps are needed to get from where you are to where you want to go.
Other regrets are harder to address, but the same rules apply. I regretted never asking out one of my best friends in high school. Her and I got along very well, better then we did with our significant others. There was tension between us, maybe an almost taboo like appeal I can’t say for sure but I always wondered what would have happened. Well, as time rolled on and her and I grew up and apart we became very different people. I know now that the friendship we had was more precious and rewarding then the selfish ideal I had as a teen-age boy. I do not regret never asking her out, as a matter of a fact I am very glad I never did, it could have possibly ended a very valuable and mutually needed friendship. I do have regrets, as do we all but most of them can be let go. For the most part I know I tried my best at what mattered and didn’t get to the things that were trivial and not meant to happen.
How do you live your life without regrets? The only way is to fully accept your mortality and believe your time is limited. Why would I say such a harsh statement, simple… if we put things off to do until tomorrow we most likely will always find other things to do first, pushing them further and further away. The same philosophy has began to snare many older working professionals. They always wanted a family but dedicated themselves to their professions. They violated one of the simple rules of life I pointed out in my first series, you are not what you do in life, but how you do it. There regret is not taking the time to step outside the working arena and sharing life with a partner and children. Putting things off to a better time and allowing other things to get in the way is the real regret, not being fully in charge of their lives.
If you want to do something do it. Now I am not saying to be impulsive, not at all, but rather to follow through with your idea. Research your idea, find out the prerequisites, make and action plan, set a date and time and then take the first step. Even if your idea is as simple as spending more quality time with your mate or family, just do it. Remove all distractions, turn off the TV, telephone, PC, game console go to a place even if it is the kitchen, back yard, city park, Paris wherever and take the time to sit back and enjoy the moment. It is interesting how simple things can be once we begin to do them. Going back to college is very intimidating to those who dropped out for whatever reason, or never started. Once determined, the research out of the way and time dedicated all you have to do is open the door and take that first step inside. Looking back on it you will see how hard and easy that first step was. If you want the phone number of that little cutie at the end of the bar, go over and ask for it, the worst thing that will happen is you will be right back where you started… but with the knowledge you tried your best and actually tried, that is not regrettable.
Take stock in how fortunate you have been in your life. Regret is a luxury some do not have. Reflect often and realize your accomplishments so far. There are many things we would like to do, for those that are realistic, research them and create a plan then do execute the plan. Tomorrow is always a day away, but if you have the means to do it today then do so, before tomorrow makes it impossible to do. Make a real plan then take the steps to complete it. Even if you fail, the question will be gone and the satisfaction of knowing you tried will ease your mind. We will not be able to accomplish all we seek out to do, this is part of life. We have to fail in order to appreciate success. We will always want to have done bad things over or tried something else, this is normal, and is called learning. If we regret never do things then we need to get off the sidelines and try them, for even if we fail, at least we know we tried. There is no shame in failing, but there is in never trying.