How to Live without Regret

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Porsche managed to deliver 115,000 cars worldwide and online sales for fashion and accessories increased during the lockdown. Yet, for the all short-term positive feelings we get from purchasing nice things, having a purpose and finding meaning in everyday experience is vital for a life of happiness and fulfillment.

In Bronnie Ware’s best-selling memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, the number one regret is: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” To be clear, it wasn’t “I wish I’d purchased a Porsche Cayenne.”

How, then, do you know whether you’re living authentically, rather than relying on other people’s advice or expectations?

Living in line with your values is key to sustained happiness (Lyubormirsky, Sheldo, & Schake, 2005). Perhaps you value friendships, knowledge, or achievements above all else. Or maybe your family, loyalty, and contributing to society are what matters most. Being attuned to your personal values will enable you to answer: “What’s most important to me?”

Our values help us to prioritize and focus on what we want, and avoid wasting time on what doesn’t bring meaning to our lives. On a deeper level, when you know what is important to you, what other people want matters less and less.

There are many ways to identify your values. Try Googling a list of values and spending time thinking about what is important to you, or consider trying my three favorite value exercises (below):

  1. Ask yourself one of the following thought-provoking questions: “How would your life change if you won the lottery tomorrow?” “What would you do if your fear didn’t get in the way?” “What would you do if it was impossible to fail?” The aim of this thought experiment is not to create an impossible dream, but rather gain insight into what’s important to you.
  2. Create a vision board of what’s important to you. While reflecting on what you need in order to honor your values, let your imagination take over – use quotes, photos, and images. Just make sure that you focus on what’s important to you rather than what you hope to achieve.
  3. Over the next week, take photographs of things that are important to you and then upload them to a reflection folder.

This awareness will help you to take control of your life and live authentically.

Bearing that in mind, what did each of the exercises teach you about your values? What values are you living in line with and what areas do you want to change? Since your values may change as you age, it’s important to do these exercises over time.

By taking the time to understand what you want out of life and how to get it right now, you’ll free yourself from regret. As Bronnie Ware aptly points out: “From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”


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