We all have fears, we have things we are afraid of, and worries that hold us back from achieving what we set out to do. It’s totally normal and common to live with fear from time to time. The issue arises when those fears control you, prevent you from enjoying what you love and leave you feeling unsatisfied and full of regret. As Psychology Today reports, according to Melanie Greenberg Ph.D., “regret is a negative cognitive/emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made.” But the goal should be to live life with no regrets—to really live.
Regret is often tied to a negative outcome or some sense of failure, but it rarely occurs when you do something poorly or you mess up. Regret often happens when you don’t take action, you hold back, you don’t try your hardest or you don’t try at all. And unfortunately, regret isn’t a momentary feeling that passes quickly so you can move on. Some regret can stay with you, and over time can lead to chronic stress and anxiety that weigh you down and hold you back even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
Read Related: Just Do It: How to Live Life and Avoid Having Regrets
So how can you really live life with no regrets? Is it even possible to avoid regret completely? Realistically speaking, you might not be able to 100% eliminate regret and fear in your life. In a perfect world maybe that would be possible, but the world isn’t perfect and we are all flawed. But what you can do is control how you react when you are faced with fear, how you handle the regrets you have, and how you change your behaviors and attitudes moving forward so you can prevent additional regret in the long run. As H. Jackson Brown wrote in his famous book Life’s Little Instruction Book: 511 Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life (which actually started out as advice for his teenage son): “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” And no, that was not Mark Twain, though many people misattribute this brilliant quote to the historical figure. If you’re ready to start living with less regret, here are some tips to help you make the most of your life starting right now.
Stop Focusing on the Risk
There will always be risks in life, and most of the things worth having and worth fighting for come with inherent risks. Fight for what you want, and focus on your end goal, not all the things that could wrong along the way. Those risks will always be there, but if you let them take over then you’ll never get to where you want to go, and you’ll spend your life wondering “what if.”
Expect Failure and Embrace Your Mistakes
You will mess up, and you will make mistakes. And that’s OK. Failure is OK. In fact, it can be really healthy. Approach failure as an opportunity to learn, grow and get better. That way when you won’t be so scared to screw up, and you can actually work towards achieving your goals installing of calculating all the ways you could fail.
Believe in Miracles
Even if the chances of something good happening are so slim, maybe even one in a million, so what. All you need is one chance to make it happen. People can and do beat the odds every day, never forget that.
Find Humor in Your Life Every Day
If you can’t laugh at yourself your life is going to be a lot more stressful and disappointing than you would like. Learn how to find humor in your everyday experiences and obstacles. Laugh at the things you do wrong and smile because you tried. Even if something didn’t go according to your plan, if you focus on the humor you’ll remember the way you felt when you were laughing and not the feeling of failure.
Practice Acceptance (of Yourself and of Loved Ones)
If you waste all of your time and energy trying to change who you are or expecting your loved ones to change, then all of your focus will be on the things that are wrong or missing in your relationships, rather than love you have and the people you care about. You’ll look back on those sentiments and wasted time with regret instead of joy. Instead, accept who you are and accept who they are, and focus on what you love and appreciate about each other instead of the qualities that you wish were different.
Be Bold and Try New Things
Even if you don’t think you can do it, you’re not sure you’ll like it or you are nervous for the potential outcome, do it anyway. Try a new activity, eat a new food, explore a new neighborhood, use a new word, make a new friend…do something every day that is different and new. Be bold and remember that regardless of what happens, you’ll be OK. The sun will rise again, it will be a new day, you will continue to move forward and you’ll try something new again tomorrow.
Look Around and Appreciate the Moment
We all spend our time rushing through life, eyes glued to our cell phones or computer screens, and we rarely stop to look around and appreciate what is around us. Have face-to-face interactions with other people, just sit in a park and look around, look up, take a deep breath and really take note of the world around you.
Do at Least One Thing Every Day That You Are Proud Of
Instead of focusing on what you didn’t do, focus on what you did well. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big thing or a little thing, but every night when you go to bed, think about one moment, action or achievement that you are proud of. Maybe you cooked a delicious dinner, maybe you reconnected with an old friend, maybe you got your kids to school on time or you got a promotion at work—there is always something to be proud of. Focus on that, smile, and then get ready to accomplish a new goal tomorrow.