A Life Without Regret: A Step-by-Step Guide
How to be happy with the way you’ve lived.
I often share how heartbroken I was by my mother’s dying words: “I never got my turn.” It made me realize that I could with the best intentions live the way I think I should live and come to the end regretting my choices. It was a wakeup call of earth-shattering proportions.
I guess that's why I now work with people who have a vision they know they must complete to fully express themselves with their lives, and so to die without regret. They are creatives, social entrepreneurs and corporate employees seeking greater meaning in life and work. They inspire me every day and call me to live what I say I stand for.
Living a life without regret is something that many of us aspire to achieve, but few of us actually accomplish it. It takes a deliberate effort to live in a way that truly nourishes you, one you will be happy with at the end. But how can you ensure that the life you’re living will be enough for you?
Who you want to be.
A few years after my mother’s death, I attended one of Stephen Covey’s leadership trainings. It was called First Things First.
One of the most powerful exercises we did was to write our own obituaries. This might seem morbid or uncomfortable at first, but it is an important, awakening experience. By imagining yourself witnessing your own funeral, you can begin to think about how you want to be remembered, and what impact you want to leave on the people in your life. This exercise can help you reframe your priorities and focus on what truly matters to you.
Once you’ve identified the impact you want to leave in each area of your life, the next step is to identify what it will take for the people in each area to feel it. What do you want your children to remember about you? Your siblings? Your clients? Your friends? What changes do you need to make in yourself to create those outcomes? With a clear big picture, you can then drill down to small changes and put them in your calendar week after week.
The final step then is to exercise integrity in the moment of choice. This means making the right choices even when it's difficult and living in a way that is consistent with your values and goals. Over time, it is your choices that transform you and ground you in a life that is authentic to you.
Milestones on the path.
At times, we all struggle with self-doubt, perfectionism, or the demands of daily life. But it's important to remember that we are all sharing the human journey from birth to death and everything in between. We can choose to wait until our blocks are shattered, but we run the risk of waiting forever. Instead, why not take the chance to pursue the work we are dying to do, and by doing it become the person we most want to be.
Here are six milestones you can use to ensure you're on your path so that you live a fulfilling life and don't die with regret:
- Start with the end in mind. Imagine yourself at the end of your life and reflect on the legacy you want to leave behind. What do you want people to say about you? What impact do you want to have made in the lives of others?
- Identify what matters most. Once you have a clear understanding of what legacy you want to leave, identify the key areas of your life that matter most to you. This may include family, career, personal growth, health, spirituality or creativity.
- Set specific goals. Once you know what matters most, set specific goals for each area of your life. These goals should be challenging yet achievable and should align with your vision for your life legacy.
- Take deliberate action. Take deliberate action towards achieving your goals. This may involve making changes to your habits, routine, or mindset. Stay focused on your vision and be willing to make sacrifices to achieve it.
- Live with integrity. Make choices that align with your vision and values. Live with integrity by being true to yourself and your purpose. Avoid compromising your values for short-term gain or approval from others.
- Choose your companions. Don’t try to make the journey solo. Find people you trust to guide you and accompany you along the way. Choose people you know will remind you who you are and what you’ve said you will do.
By following these six steps, you can ensure that you live a life that reflects who you truly are and when you come to the end of your life, you are free of regrets and leave behind a meaningful legacy.
We are made by our choices.
A life lived fully and without regret is achievable, but it takes a deliberate effort to live intentionally and make choices that align with your values and goals. By writing your own obituary and identifying the impact you want to leave, you can reframe your priorities and focus on what truly matters. With personal transformation and a commitment to living with integrity, you can live a life that you will be contented with when we come to the end of our days.
In the community of everyday visionaries I'm privileged to lead, we share the journey, the struggles, and the process. We do the work and in so doing become capable of creating what we long for. We support each other in creating lives well-lived, lives without regret.
If you'd like to learn more, please reach out to me.
To take the first step on your new path, risk free and with expert guidance, check out my upcoming free online training here.
Hi Katherine, I think I met years ago at Ben Holluses home where I also met Bruce Henry. I had made some big choices that had led to a life that I was feeling good about… My family, my career, my service to/impact on others. But in the last four years, my wife, son and daughter have all died violently and tragically. I have two wonderful, adopted daughter’s and many wonderful friends and professionals around me, but I have to find something strong that pulls me forward and makes me feel that I am making something good happen with the many blessings and tragedies that have come my way.
Jeffrey, I remember you well. Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking story. I can’t begin to imagine how devastating your loss has been for you. The fact that you find enough courage to go forward and to appreciate what you still have is in itself deeply inspiring. I’m moved by your desire to create something with the inexplicable things you’ve experienced. What is it that pulls you forward? Do you know?