7 Ways To Live Free
Have you ever read one of those articles where aging folks talk about what they regret the most? Usually at the end, we are asked what we think our regrets will be, and how we can evaluate our lives right now in light of the things our elders have shared.
I think this exercise has value. The value is that it can motivate us to step out and take some risks; to really believe that our own lives are WORTH INVESTING IN.
The flipside, I think, is it also has potential to create negativity on the inside, because we are so sure we’re Missing Out on something and will grow old being unfulfilled. Then the impulse is to over-correct or “catch up” and what happens is overwork and burnout, or paralyzing self-reproach and self-rejection. In a word, shame.
If shame is your natural inclination, (in spite of your ideals,) here are seven healthy steps to take toward rebuilding your hope and determination; seven ways to live free from the fear of regrets.
1. Affirm your value as an existing being. You are alive. You breathe and your heart beats. You can sense, feel, think, speak. You are human. You have the ability to imagine, create, and share from the beauty already within you.
2. Affirm your Individuality. You have life to live and work to do that no one else can do in your stead, because no one has your unique history, experience, location, knowledge, personality, character, etc. All those layers that make you who you are- you will not find an identical match.
3. Affirm your purpose. You have a dream, or a calling, or a deep conviction or ambition. Or you have the task of discovering what one of those things might be. (Then your purpose would be “exploration” at present. That is highly valuable in creating a better world.)
4. Affirm your gifts. You have experienced enough of a measure of good things to know what a good thing actually is. Naming some of those good things in your life- practicing gratitude - is an important step in affirming the beauty of your present life.
5. Affirm your experience. Look how far you have come. Look at all the things you HAVE accomplished, instead of what you wish you had already done. Make a list of both great and small things, and add to it whenever you complete a challenge or claim a victory. Even simple things like “I made a new friend” or “I spoke an uplifting word today” are accomplishments worthy of mention.
6. Accept your regrets. It’s hard to live with something irreversible. But everyone does. You are not alone in the desire for a do-over. We are all carrying something. And this we know: if we walk in the fear of regrets, there will be more to follow. Let’s walk in confidence instead; confidence that what we do wholeheartedly is enough for today.
7. Choose one step forward. You want more from life. So do I. We are here to both give and receive, and often I have found that with an open heart, one of those things leads to the other. Regrets aren’t reversed all at once. Some we live with always, and some we do the slow work of repair over time. But know this: a new story is made many times a day. It's never too late for you to live a new one, too.
May you find encouragement as you live your story,
Know yourself. Share yourself. Go brightly.