How to Live a Life With No Regrets

5 Minute Read

If you want to live life to the fullest, research shows you’ve got to let go of regret. Nothing zaps zest out of your golden years quite like dwelling on “what might have been.”

You only live once. Here’s how to make it count.

Trade Screen Time for Face Time

You can’t go anywhere these days without seeing people with their faces buried in a screen. We’re so afraid of missing out on a status update or cute cat video that we let meaningful connection fall to the wayside.

But FOMO—fear of missing out—can be a real downer. According to a recent research study, young people with high levels of FOMO can’t get no life satisfaction.

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Let’s be real. When you’re old and gray, you’re not going to reminisce about the work email you sent during dinner or the selfie a classmate you haven’t seen in 20 years just posted. You’re going to reflect on the special moments.

Be intentional about spending untethered time with family and friends now.

So be intentional about spending untethered time with family and friends now. Why? Because these are the good days. There’s so much wonder happening right in front of you. If you blink, you just might miss it.

Plan for the Future

When Cornell professor Karl Pillemer asked older Americans to share their biggest life regret as part of his Legacy Project, he didn’t expect worry to rise to the top. But lots of folks shared the same letdown: “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying.”

We can probably all agree that worry is a waste of energy that steals joy from the present. So why is it so hard to shake? Because it feeds off of future uncertainty.

According to the latest Chapman University Survey of American Fears, we worry about a lot of things we can’t control—from government corruption to terrorist attacks. But there’s one anxiety we actually have the power to beat, and that’s the fear of running out of money.

What’s the secret? It’s simple: If you want to worry less about tomorrow, you’ve got to come up with a plan today.

Worry is a waste of energy that steals joy from the present.

Start by putting your retirement dreams to paper, then sit down with an investing professional you trust to figure out how to bring those dreams to life. With some good old-fashioned preparation, you can be on your way to a future that’s full of promise instead of regret.

Never Stop Learning

Education shows up time and time again on regret studies. Some people wish they had tried harder in school. Others wish they had earned a different college degree. You name it, someone feels bad about it.

But thanks to the digital age, it’s easier than ever to put your school-day regrets behind you. That’s because you have tons of resources at your fingertips—from podcasts and TED Talks to online degrees and e-books. You can learn just about anything, anytime, anywhere— and in many cases, for free.

Think you’re too old to learn something new? Think again. Science shows that lifelong learners are happier in their golden years. So what are you waiting for? Opportunity awaits!

Put Your Purpose Into Practice

Making bank is great. But if you spend 40-plus hours a week at a J-O-B you hate just for the paycheck, there’s no joy in that.

It’s time to take a lesson from Millennials. If there’s one prize Gen Y has its eye on, it’s doing work that matters. And research shows that way of thinking could lead to a longer life.

We all have a purpose that fuels our internal fire. But it’s easy to get so caught up in the grind that you lose sight of your personal mission.

It’s never too late to decide what matters to you and go after it!

Thankfully, it’s never too late to decide what matters to you and go after it! That might mean embarking on a new career, creating meaning in the job you already have, or volunteering for a ministry that’s close to your heart.

Speak Your Heart More Than Your Mind

A lot of regrets tie back to something we did or didn’t say to someone we care about. No matter what nursery rhymes tell us, words are powerful things.

So how do you use that power for good? Honesty is a good place to start. The trick is to be honest in the right way. You can build someone up or tear them down. You can help or hurt a situation. The beauty is, you get to choose what kind of honest you want to be.

It’s easy to speak your mind. But that can leave you wishing you had just kept your mouth shut.

It’s much braver to share your heart. It can be as simple as saying “I’m sorry,” “Thank you,” or “I love you.” After all, aren’t those the words that matter most? Left unspoken, they could haunt you for a lifetime.

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