At the end of life, will you look back and ask, “What if…”?
What if I had written and published that book?
What if I had started that membership program?
What if I had asked for a divorce?
What if I had invested that money?
What if I had said, “I love you.”
What if I had applied for (or quit) that job?
What if I had taken the risk?
What if I had said I’m sorry?
“What if” is usually about regret. You look at the past and wonder how your life might have turned out if you had done things differently. You wonder who you might have become and what you might have experienced or created “if only…”
But you can ask that question now, and create a regret-free future.
Regrets About What You Didn’t Do
At the end of our lives, we usually regret what we didn’t do more than we regret what we did. Regrets are about inaction more often than action.
We regret not:
- pursuing dreams
- showing up authentically
- speaking up for ourselves or others
- loving as much as we could
- caring as much as we were able
- contributing in the way we wanted
- being happier
- feeling more connected
- playing bigger
- feeling “not enough” to take action
- doing something because we believed it would be too hard
- being courageous enough to stand up to family and friend’s disapproval or judgment
- allowing ourselves to be seen
At the age of 60, I know I have some of these regrets now. But I have time to do something about that. I don’t have to leave these things undone.
How about you? Do you regret some of these things…or others?
Regrets About What You Did
If you regret doing something, it is probably because the result you got wasn’t what you wanted. More than that, your remorse arises from the fact that you take action to correct the situation and change the result.
For example, if you are sorry that you squandered all the money you earned, the real regret is not doing something about that before all your money was gone. Or if you are sorry you got divorced, what you really regret is what you didn’t do in that marriage to make it work.
I have focused my energy on busywork more than my life’s work. The result: I didn’t write specific books, which I deeply regret.
I have withheld love. The result: failed relationships. I have huge remorse about this.
But I still have time to do something about these regrets…to take action and create a different result.
The clients I work with often regret quitting on themselves. Consider if you have stopped working toward your dreams, doing what it takes to realize your potential, or taking action to fulfill your purpose.
If you have, that hurts…that causes remorse big time.
Did you quit because creating change in yourself and your life feels hard or because pursuing your dreams feels challenging and scary? Consider this: Doing what is hard or scary now is easier than later regretting not doing it. Knowing you could have done things differently is the hardest truth to bear…much harder than taking action now.
Play the “What If…” Game
Instead of asking “What if…?” at the end of your life and feeling regret, play the “What If…” game now. Ask yourself, “How will my life and I turn out if I take a different action now?” And then act on that answer.
What if you:
Wrote and published that book? Started that membership program? Asked for a divorce? Invested that money? Said, “I love you.” Applied for (or quit) that job? Took the risk? Said I’m sorry?
As you consider these what-if scenarios, you create a regret-free life. The possibilities of creating the results you desire motivate you to take action—even if it feels difficult.
Imagine a Different Result
Visualize these positive what-if scenarios. What would you and your life be like in that “what if I did it…” reality?
For instance, imagine what would happen if you shared how you feel right with someone you care about? What might be the positive results?
Or visualize having written that book, auditioning for that role, apologizing to that family member, standing up for yourself, calling a friend, or admitting defeat or success…right now.
What would that look like, feel like, sound like? Imagine it! What would your life be like in that scenario? Who would you become in that what-if life?
That’s how you create a life without regrets.
4 Steps to Creating Your What-If Future
You can couple visualization of your what-if future with a journaling activity. Here’s how:
- Make a list of things you’d hate to regret at the end of your life. This is a list of your dreams, goals, ambitions, and aspirations. It includes who you want to be, how you want to show up, what you want to do and have, and what you would like your life to look like.
- Consider what your life would be like now and in the future if you took action on the things you listed in the first step. Write down all the details of that experience, including what it would look, feel, smell, and sound like. Describe how you would show up…who you would be.
- List the steps necessary to create that what-if life. What actions did you take? How did you change? What did you do differently to get those results?
- Finally, decide which of the steps you will take now. How will you create that what-if future? What actions will you commit to at this moment to produce the results you desire—and avoid regrets later? What will you do?
There is no reason to die with regrets…or to live with them at this moment. You can create the life of your dreams and to step into your best self.
What will you do right now to create your what-if life? Tell me in a comment below, and please share this post with someone who would be served by reading it.
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Photo courtesy of Simy27 .