We have all likely failed, made a bad decision, took a wrong turn at least once in our lives. Some of us are able to move on, while others can't help but beat themselves up every time they remember a devastating memory. So how should we deal with it? How do we move on? How can we be free from regret?
Here are 10 ways to live life with no regrets:
1. Graduate from failure.
Always draw a lesson or two from a failure. Ask God what is He trying to teach you from it. Write them in a journal. This is very important as it serves as a “culminating paper” similar to when you are about to end a school year and graduate. After you’re done, close the chapter and enter a new one as a better and wiser you. No need to dwell in the past because that chapter has already served its purpose. It has taught you the lessons you can bring with you for the rest of your life.
2. Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat.
If you would like to try something (as long as it does not harm anybody, and it is not against God’s will), by all means, do it. Why not satisfy your curiosity now? When you shake it off, oftentimes you will still find the same thoughts and what-if ideas pop in your head years later. Also I realized, doing something fun out of curiosity is like investing in your memory bank. Those fun things that you do will have their ROI as they bring a smile to your face every time you remember them or talk about them with your partners in crime.
3. Get your hands dirty.
Try to do things you haven’t done before. Cook a dish from a place you’ve never been to, write a song as a Christmas gift, play the piano, build a tree-house, try some of the 5-minute craft viral videos. You may even do the activities Rapunzel did in Tangled. The more you use your hands, the more you bring out your innate creativity.
4. Read a chapter daily.
Learn something new everyday. If you do not know what to learn, may I suggest something? Please read one chapter of Bible a day. It may start bland sometimes, but keep going. It will shed more light the more you read. Each day, no matter how boring or painful, is a beautiful day that the Lord has made. Let God teach you life lessons and color your day. Again, write your lessons in a journal. These are like precious gems that will bless you and those who will read them in the years to come.
5. Do not burn bridges.
The world is smaller than you think. There is a theory that any two persons on earth are connected within 6 degrees of acquantance links (Frigyes Karinthy, 1929). You will never know who you will meet or work with in the next decades. This person might hear about you from someone (degree 2) who has heard from someone (degree 3) about you. Better to bless bridges instead, and you will “heap coals of fire on their heads“ (you will awaken a pang of regret or shame on their heads). Things like love, kindness, obedience do not really depend on others for you to do them. Draw your strength from the Lord.
6. Close a tab.
Avoid procrastinating. If there are things that can be done today, do it already. If you don’t, the task will remain like an open browser tab in your brain that can occupy mental space and unecessarily waste energy which you could have already been enjoying at that moment.
7. Live out your purpose and potential.
According to Aristotle, personal happiness is achieved not by power or possessions, but “when an object fulfills the function of its kind to the highest level, it achieves sort of a functional excellence.” For Aristotle, everything has a unique nature and function in the natural order. We can find happiness when we are able to fulfill our unique purpose that benefits the natural order or the eco-system. Similar to this, God has bestowed each of us unique gifts which we can use to serve the body of Christ with. Amazingly, when we do so, we receive the gift of happiness too.
8. What if you drop your what ifs?
What if.. I did this, things might be better. What if I did that, my loved one wouldn’t have left me. What if you just drop your what ifs? One thing I am really grateful for as a believer is the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has the power to teach, remind, encourage, rebuke and lead us to the right path when we depend on Him. This means, if we are meant to make a particular decision, He would prod our hearts into doing what we are meant to do. As long as you have a relationship with the Lord, you won’t miss out.
9. Focus on your own lot.
Let me share with you something that’s odd. What we focus our eyes on grows. If our eyes are focused on the green lawn of our neighbor, their lawn becomes greener; and we grow more envious and dissatisfied with our lives. If our eyes tend to see the negatives, the problems will multiply. But if we look at the beauty in our lot, our grass becomes greener. Reasons for thankfulness begin to spring up, one after the other. Life can be better with the right perspective. One way to do so is to keep a thanksgiving journal where you can write something that you are grateful for each day.
10. Speak it out.
One of the top regrets people have is when they were not able to mend relationships, and share the message from their hearts, before a loved one passes away. I remember a friend of mine whose mom had died years ago. Their relationship was actually okay but became a little rocky when the mom was always angry later on when she was sick. My friend felt he was not able to tell her what he had always wanted to tell her before she died. This haunted him for years. And so I realized, if there are words we would like to say — if they are true and noble, words that can build up and not tear down, words that are pure and from a loving heart, then say it. Today. If you need to apologize, please do so today. Forgive also, today. No one knows what tomorrow will bring.
11. Be like a flowing river.
Live selflessly. Love boundlessly. Give freely. Forgive constantly. Some might say these lines sounds like “toxic positivity.” Well, they are, if you are not connected to the Source— the Giver of grace, of love, of life. You will just constantly empty your own tank.
I remember a mentor shared with me her dream. She was swimming in the Dead Sea, at the border of Jordan. The sea was surprisingly alive. Its current took her from place to place. When she woke up, she realized that the water signified God's blessings. If she goes with the flow, God will continually let the blessings flow through her. But if she keeps it to herself, it will become like the dead sea, dead in its basin. She then realized that her businesses are not really for her own gain. They are a gift from God, an instrument of blessing to be shared to others. If we are connected with God, we will find nothing lacking even if we give ourselves away. God will simply continue to provide from his bottomless resource. This is the beauty of God’s economy.