There are two main categories of regrets; those things you didn’t do but should have and those things you did but shouldn’t have. It seems that more people regret those things they didn’t do compared to those things they did do.
A book by Bronnie Ware, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” lists the dying regrets of patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. They are:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
It’s interesting that all of the five regrets involve quality of life issues. It’s the missed opportunities that lead to regrets. There is no mention of regretting something that was tried but didn’t turn out as planned.
So, although fear of failure is a major limiting factor in many people’s lives, when looking back, failures are not typically causes of regret. Your attitude and approach to life is a fundamental component as to what you will regret.
Here are some suggestions for living a more regret free life.
First and foremost, understand that it’s OK to make mistakes. Success is possible only when mistakes are overcome. More can be learned from mistakes than when all goes as planned. Learn from your mistakes not to repeat the same actions which produced undesirable results. Don’t regret the past, it’s over. Life is all about moving forward.
Follow your own path rather than one others think you should take. Satisfaction occurs when you achieve your own goals. Sacrificing your happiness for the sake of pleasing others leads to regrets. Your journey doesn’t require any one else’s approval.
Take care of your mind and body. Your quality of life is connected to how you feel both physically and mentally. As you age, you don’t want to regret not taking better care of yourself. Regardless of your condition or age, it’s never too late to start taking better care of yourself.
Take breaks and relax. Appreciate all of the wonder around you. You are surrounded by wondrous miracles. Be grateful for all of the good things in your life. This approach helps you keep things in perspective so you don’t become drained by the small stuff. You don’t want to regret wasting your time on things that didn’t really matter.
Don’t be afraid of or resist change. Try new things. Take more risks. A major cause of risk avoidance is fear of failure. In most situations, the worst case scenario isn’t as bad as you think. Remember that more regrets are because of missed opportunities due to fear based inaction rather than because of things that didn’t work out.
Think for yourself and ask questions. Don’t make decisions because of the opinions of others. Look for advice from those people who have already accomplished what you are seeking to do. There’s no shortage of bad advice.
Maintaining a positive outlook and attitude attracts people and circumstances you need to attain your goals. There is a solution for every problem and a way to overcome each obstacle. A positive attitude is essential for finding them.
Develop an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful for all you have rather than complaining about what you don’t have. Goal attainment results from positive action, not from complaining and bitterness. Those who are thankful for what they have, always have more than they need. Conversely, people who always want more, never feel they have enough.
Start by incorporating at least one of these suggestions. I will provide some more strategies in the next column.
NOW AVAILABLE: "Dare to Live Without Limits," the book. Visit www.BryanGolden.com or your bookstore. Bryan is a management consultant, motivational speaker, author, and adjunct professor. E-mail Bryan at
or write him c/o this paper. 2012 Bryan Golden