June 4, 2013

No Regrets...

By Maria Rudesill

While surfing the internet during a break, I discovered a list of the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, collected from the Guardian News Report (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying) As I was skimming the article, I realized just how sad these statements truly are. Let me share them with you...

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Wow! Heartbreaking, isn’t it! To live out the current expected life span of 78.7 years (www.cdc.gov) and end it in despair – wishing for something that can’t be fixed anymore – this IS the whole-hearted meaning of despair! This is the moment in life where the journey has ended and you can’t go back – not because the bridge is burned – but because you are physically spent. Over. Done. Dead.

Take a deep breath. Did you feel your lungs expand? Did you smell the world around you? Did your shoulders relax for a second? That is proof that you are alive. Awake. Living. Capable! You may be in a place that you call a valley, or for some of you, maybe it’s a pit. But, if you were able to take that breath, there is still time to avoid these final regrets.

So, what do you do now? Let’s take a look at each of these regrets and learn how to reverse them in your life today.

5. Choose to be happy!

Happiness is a choice that you get to make every moment of every day. Oftentimes we get trapped in our own negative thoughts and responses, creating patterns that automatically kick in when triggered. It takes energy to change the pattern and sometimes we avoid doing anything that feels like work. It is just easier to do what I always do. What if I picked something small and broke the pattern? What if on my lunch break, I take my meal into the sunshine and just enjoy the day for five minutes? What if I smile at my husband instead of bark back in frustration? What if?

4. Reach out and touch someone!

No surprise this old slogan for AT&T fits perfectly here. Email, phone, text, social sites, whatever! You could even *gasp!* write a letter! But what if it isn’t time that is holding you back – could it be shame over a mistake? Bitterness over an old argument? Fear that they don’t want to hear from you? Forgiveness is a powerful tool – both when given and received. Shame, bitterness and fear, however, are prisons that keep you locked in your own safe world. The warmth and fulfillment that come from a strong friendship are worth fixing a broken friendship – or just re-establishing a relationship on pause.

3. Go ahead – express yourself!

Do you realize that most people can’t name their emotions? Sure, we get things like anger, but have you ever paid attention to the emotions underneath? As kids, we are trained by society and those in our lives that our feelings are not important. A boy feeling sad is told to “Man up!”, a girl feeling happy is told to “Calm down and act like a lady!” We stuff our emotions to the point that when we really want to say how we feel to someone, we don’t know how. Perhaps you are that man that can’t tell your children how much you love them. Maybe you are that woman who is feeling humiliated by her family, but doesn’t dare defend herself. Guess what – stuffing your emotions can cause physical illness and mental stress. Learning how to identify and express what you are feeling sets you free.

2. Focus on what’s important!

If you are a “work-a-holic”, take a moment and ask why? Are you trying to prove yourself to someone? Are you trying to provide the biggest and the best for your family? Do you gain personal value from your job? If yes to any of these, then you are working for the wrong reason. What you do will never equal who you are. No house or car will make your family love you more. No title will ever be prestigious enough to trump the importance of your relationships. If you lost your job today, would you be lost? If so, it is time to re-evaluate where you are putting your energy and focus. Look instead to the people who love you and want to be around you. You may find that all of your well-intentioned efforts were missing their target completely.

1. Rediscover who YOU are!

Do you long for something different but fear failing? Do you have a dream but find that little voice in your head whispering “You can’t do that.” Does that voice sound like your mother, father, or great-aunt Myrtle? We carry definitions of ourselves based on what we learned as kids and what other people have told us. We do things because we are supposed to. Now, there are things we should do - like drive the speed limit – but what about the “should’s” that trap us and don’t have to? Are you doing things because you fear disappointing others if you follow your heart instead?

Make a promise today – promise yourself that in your final moment, you won’t have any reason to feel any of these final regrets because you are willing to do the work now, while you still can.

If you found yourself in this article, perhaps it is time to take a stand and begin the process of defining yourself. The Trek is an online program that is designed to help people reach out and grasp that joy that comes from living a life without regrets. Begin your journey at thetrek.org today.

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