Live like today was your last day. Live without regrets. What will you regret not doing when you get to be 80 years old? Or what will you regret doing? The idea is to imagine yourself as an old person looking back on how you lived and somehow trying to plan out your life based on what you think you will regret when you get to be that age.
There is an abundance of phrases tossed around about somehow preventing regret. Of course, no one likes the feeling of regret. It sucks. It makes us feel worthless and pointless and angry and depressed.
How can a person go through life without regrets, though?
Is that even possible?
Essentially, to avoid regrets means to avoid mistakes...to avoid learning...to avoid understanding the nature of life as a human being.
We aren't born knowing how to live life just right so that we have no regrets on our deathbed. Can you imagine our parents sitting us down with us when we're 5 years old, trying to explain that we need to be conscious of our every choice so that when we get to be their age, we don't have regrets? Can you imagine how much anxiety and stress that would produce in a child?
Avoidance of regret is misery.
Fear of doing the "wrong" thing, making the "wrong" move, not taking advantage of an opportunity...belief that the opportunity will never happen again...fear of making mistakes so we don't make decisions at all...fear of missing out so we do and do and do until we drop...and then we regret that...
Life is hard enough without feeling like we're not doing it right.
There is a shit-ton of regrets that I have. I'm 42. I can look back and feel like I wasted the hell out of my 20's not knowing what on Earth I wanted to do with my life. I can look back to my 30's and feel such an ache in my heart for not being 100% present when my only child was a baby, a toddler, and a little kid. I regret the way I treated my sister when we were young. I regret not helping my parents more when I lived at home. I regret not telling the school bullies to fuck off and stand up for myself better. I regret not spending more time with my grandpa before he died. I regret not pursuing my passions when I was younger...because, "I could be so much farther ahead in life if I had!"
What does that even mean anyway? Being further ahead in life? Compared to who? Elon Musk? Tony Robbins? Oprah Winfrey? Don't you think they have regrets too?
Life is such that it's hard to know what we want unless we experience what we don't want. And the only way to get to that point is to make mistakes. To have regrets.
I can't go back to my childhood and stand up to those bullies. I can't change the way I was towards my sister. I can't change how much I helped my parents or how present I was with my child, what I did with my passions, or what opportunities I've missed along the way. I can't get back the time that I judge as "wasted".
I'm not going to make it to 80 without regrets.
And you won't either.
This is life.
We're all just doing the best we can with the tools and resources we have at any given moment. We can't know everything we'll want out of life when we pop out of the woman who gave birth to us. This is just the way it is. We learn by having regrets. Regrets help us change. They help us navigate through life.
Instead of letting ourselves spiral downward into a heap of depressing thoughts about what we wish we had or had not done, we need to remind ourselves that we were doing the best we could at that moment. Hindsight is always 20/20. We can do better now that we know more and understand life better...but it's not to avoid regrets in the future...it's to have a good life in the now.
Regrets are teachers. Nothing more. You are not defined by your regrets.
Living life in order to appease some ancient version of us in the future on the brink of death isn't living. It's fear. It's torture. It's pointless.
We are going to have regrets.
And it's just going to have to be okay.