I recently turned 30. Changing the first digit in your age is one of those moments when you’re inclined to really think about the way you’ve lived your life so far and the way you want to live it from that point onward. At least it was for me.
It’s not unusual for some feelings of regret to set in. And that gets you thinking how you can prevent it from happening again in the future. Happily for me, I have few feelings of regret about the way I lived my life so far. And I think the lessons I’ve learned will allow me to live a life of no regrets from this moment forward.
I’d like to share with you 3 key ideas that I believe will permit you to have no regrets in life, which I’ve discovered both through my personal experience and my professional experience of working as a confidence coach for the past several years.
1. Live a Values-Centered Life
I believe that fundamentally, it’s not the things you achieve that make you most fulfilled with your life, it’s the way you go about achieving them. The values you live by and practice day by day are more important than the goals you reach. And this makes living a values-centered life crucial.
Living a values-centered life means first of all getting clear on your own values. Not the values others around you have, not the values society wants you to have, the values you truly have.
I’ve used various ways to try and clarify my values. The most effective way has been asking myself one simple question: “What is most important for me in life?”
Ask yourself this. Don’t expect the complete answer to pop up all of a sudden. Stick with the question; keep asking yourself this days, weeks and months. Progressively this will uncover and clarify your core values.
When you know your values, you have a duty towards yourself to align your life with them. If you value health, live healthy. If you value altruism, give constantly. If you value self-growth, seek to grow every day. I can tell you from experience that it’s probably not gonna be easy. It takes courage, consciousness and commitment to live a life aligned with your values. But it’s worth it. The feelings of dignity and fulfillment it generates are like nothing else.
2. Lean into Challenge
Speaking of things not being easy, another guaranteed way to remove regrets from life is from my perspective leaning into challenge.
Challenging yourself is an interesting phenomenon, because while it often creates some anxiety when you do it, it also creates a strong dose of fulfillment after you’ve done it. It feels good to push yourself. You feel proud of yourself, you feel like you’re developing as a person, if feels like you’re truly living. And that takes any sense of regret out of the equation.
So it’s a good idea to lean into challenge. And finding ways to challenge yourself is not difficult. Even now there are probably several things that you’ve been avoiding doing because they feel hard. Stop avoiding them and start doing them. Lean into the challenge.
At one point in my life, I had virtually no social life and I really wanted one. But I dreaded going out, meeting new people and talking to them. And this prevented me from doing something to build a social life for a long time. Until I realized that unless I challenge myself, my social life will never improve on its own.
That’s when I started to gradually push myself to attend social events, meet new people, make conversation and build relationships. The gradual part is usually very important whenever you challenge yourself, by the way. And that’s how I gained social confidence, I honed my social skills and I eventually built a social circle to die for.
Had I stayed in my comfort zone instead of seeking to be more outgoing, I couldn’t have lived with myself at this point. Just goes to show you the amazing power of gradually pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
3. Live In the Present
Our mind has an incredibly ability to project into the past or the future. This is what allows us to recall past events and tell stories about them or imagine the future and plan ahead. So it’s a very useful ability.
Unfortunately, often we abuse this ability. This happens when we spend a lot of time living in the past or in the future, instead of being in the present. When we daydream, when we overanalyze, when we ruminate on past events, we lose to present moment.
Over time, as this happens again and again, we get this sense that we haven’t really been living life; because much of the time while things were happening, mentally we simply weren’t there. And the solution to this predicament is to reverse the process: to live more in the present.
Living in the present is something you can do deliberately. When you notice your mind wondering off, pull your attention back to the current experience. Focus on the present, not on the past or some hypothetical future.
With practice, you’ll notice that your mind will build the habit of being present. In time, you’ll naturally be more present. Experiences all around will feel more intense as a result: anything from walking in a park to climbing a mountain. Life will feel more real and exciting, and this feeds your sense of happiness and wellbeing, leaving little reason for regret. Give it a try.
There is a lot that can be said about living a life of no regrets. But consider this as a practical primer. Implement the ideas discussed here in your own life, and I’m certain that you’ll gain a strong sense of fulfillment with it.
In general, happiness and the absence of regret have little to do with the things you have or achieve in life, and they have a lot more to do with the journey and the way you subjectively experience life. So work on these two things, make the right tweaks, and you’ll enjoy life to the fullest.