“Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear.” ~Unknown
Samara is my colleague at work. She is one of the most pleasant ladies I know. She always has a smile and an encouraging word to give.
She really is the kind of woman you want to speak to on the days you feel like life has dealt you a bad hand, because she always has something comforting to say. As we got closer, I confided more and more in her about the challenges I was going through in my life.
I envisioned that her life must be perfect since she has such inner strength.
But I was wrong.
One day I noticed she had a sad countenance. That was strange because Samara was like sunshine itself. However, her sad countenance did not last, and before long she had her signature smile back on.
But I was not deceived. I knew that deep inside her, she was experiencing some pain, so I asked her what was wrong.
At first, she smiled and said that all was well. But I insisted that she confide in me. She looked me in the eyes, thanked me for caring, and then dropped the bombshell.
“My six-year-old daughter has been in a critical condition for the past six months because of my carelessness. I saw her yesterday and her situation seems to have worsened. I think she is going to die.”
For a second, I could not speak. I was in shock.
“I am so sorry,” I managed to stammer, trying not to let her see how shaken I was by the shocking statement I had just heard.
She explained to me that six months ago, she had stopped at a supermarket to get a few things. And because she was in a hurry, she had left her daughter in the car with the engine running. Her daughter had managed to engage the gear and the car had sped into the road, right into an oncoming trailer, and she had been seriously injured.
The tears rolled down my face as she narrated this horrific story to me.
She assured me that she had managed to forgive herself and had replaced regrets with gratitude for the six years she spent with her daughter.
I recalled with a sense of embarrassment all the fuss I sometimes make over little things that, in light of what I’d just heard from Samara, now seem really insignificant.
My marriage was not working out the way I wanted it to and everyday I lived with regret that I married my husband. I made a career change, which has turned out to be a very poor decision, and I have not been able to forgive myself.
I realized that I spend too much of my time dwelling on all the mistakes I have made in the past. I spend too much time regretting things that I have no power to change. I spend too much time wishing things were different. I spend too much time beating myself up over what I’ve done.
Over the years after that encounter, I determined to live a more positive life, free of regrets. Here are five ways I’ve learned to do that:
1. Live your life with purpose.
I realized that my career was doing badly because I did not have a career plan. I just drifted through my days without something to look forward to, so my life lacked momentum.
Determine to live a life of focus. Today, take a stand on one thing you want to achieve in your life and draw up a plan to accomplish it.
2. Stop making excuses.
I blamed everybody else for the way my life turned out. I blamed my husband for the failure of my marriage and I blamed my boss for not promoting me.
I am responsible for my life and not anybody else. Instead of making excuses, I need to take responsibility.
It doesn’t matter what the obstacles in your life are. You can achieve almost anything if you put your mind to it. Helen Keller and Jon Morrow are examples of people who achieved excellence despite physical disabilities.
Look within yourself. There is something waiting to be birthed. Find what that something is and do it, without excuses.
3. Choose not to be a victim.
At a point, I thought I had made such a mess of my life that there was no point trying to put things right. So I gave up trying. I mulled over my mistakes every day and went deeper into regrets.
None of this helped me. I only started making progress when I embraced my mistakes, determined not to make them again, and resumed chasing my dreams.
Life is not fair for any one of us. There will be storms and you will make mistakes. But be determined to get up as many times as life pushes you down. Forgive yourself, learn the lessons, and go on working toward your goals.
The more time you spend feeling sorry for yourself, the less time you have to pursue the life of your dreams.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others.
I could not stop comparing myself to others. Everybody seemed to be happier than me, their marriages seemed to be faring better, and I seemed to be the only person with a less than fulfilling career.
This made me feel even worse. I wondered what others were doing that I was not. Their progress in life seemed to dampen my spirit.
Over time, I realized that comparing yourself with others is one of the greatest mistakes anybody can make. No matter who you are or where you find yourself in life, always remember that you have your own unique path to walk.
Never compare yourself, your struggles, and your journey to anyone else, for that would only distract you from your own.
We are all different. Forget about others and focus on fulfilling your own life dreams.
5. Take action now.
After I drew up a career plan for myself, I still lacked the courage to follow my plan. I wasted a lot of time because I was afraid that I would fail and I did not have to courage to start. So I continued to push things off.
It’s funny how so many people seem to think that tomorrow is better than today for getting things done. We put off those things that are important to us and we lie to ourselves by saying that we will do them later.
Whatever you need to do, do it now! Today is the tomorrow you planned for yesterday, so start today.
My chat with Samara that day was a wake up call. I promised myself that day that I would not waste any more precious moments of my life regretting. I have been able to do that and have discovered inner peace in the process.
So I urge you to do the same. Don’t waste any more time on regrets. Learn the lesson and move on. There’s still a lot of life in you. Go out there and live it!
Photo by Benson Kua