Do you know what the two saddest words in the English language are?
Have you got any ‘if onlys’ in your life? Depends on your age, I guess, but most of us will have picked up a few along the way.
But the more important question is this. Is the way you are living your life now setting you up for a pile more ‘if onlys’ further down the road? Can you see yourself in 10 or 20 years time thinking ‘If only I had made a change in my career’, ‘If only I had believed in myself’, ‘If only I had done what I wanted not what everyone else said I should do.’
Do those have a worrying resonance for you? If so, what will you do about it while you have the chance?
So what are the most common regrets, the ‘if onlys’ that come up again and again? And how many of these are you heading for right now?
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
So many people, especially men, fall into the trap of dedicating all their time and energy to their career. They are driven by the desire to work up the ladder and earn more money. But the price they pay is losing time with family and friends that can never be made up later.
What really matters in your life? Do you really think you will regret not spending more time at work? I doubt it. Shift the balance now and prioritise the people that really matter.
I wish I hadn’t worried so much about what other people thought about me
Are you hooked into the game of pleasing people – could be your parents or it could just be that you want to be seen to be doing what everyone else thinks is the ‘right thing’. But is it the right thing for you?
At the end of the day, whose life is it anyway? It is yours. That means you get to define the rules because only you know what really resonates for you. If that means breaking the rules and walking away from a supposedly stable and steady job because you want to retrain to do something else or maybe run your own business, then go do it! Who cares what they say, it is what your own heart says that matters.
I wish I had let myself be happier
We grown ups take life way too seriously. It’s like we expect life to be a burden and so act accordingly. There is also the tendency to stay with what is familiar even if it is boring or frustrating. Somehow the idea of making a change that will make us happier just seems too risky.
Are you going through life avoiding the risk of being happy? Start changing that today by being a bit playful or silly. Do something just for fun. Smile. Make a conscious choice to be happy.
I wish I’d had the courage to say what I really felt or wanted
How often do you just put up and shut up? Whether it is at work or in a relationship where you are leaving things unsaid, keeping your true feelings or needs locked up inside will never work out as a good long term strategy.
You may think it is better to keep quiet to keep the peace, but you will find you just build up a store of resentment inside that can lead to bitterness and even illness. Your needs matter as much as anyone else’s so make sure your voice is heard.
I wish I had kept in touch with my friends
Are you letting work and the demands of daily life take over? How much time do you spend keeping in touch with friends who really matter to you? This is your chance to acknowledge the people in your life who are really important, not just having a long list of people you feel obliged to contact on a regular basis.
Do this out of love – for yourself and for your friends – not out of duty. These are the people who will be there for you when you really need them so make sure you keep the friendship alive.
There are many more ‘if onlys’ and I am sure you can add a few to this list. But rather than add to the list, start thinking and planning today how you can reduce the list. What will you do from now onwards to
The ball is in your court. You can start to make changes right now and avoid the ‘if onlys’ further down the line.
After all, you don’t want to have the two saddest words in the English language echoing round in your head in 20 years time, do you?
What do you think?
What steps will you take to avoid the ‘if onlys’?
When will you begin?
From The 5 Minute Career Coach November 2014
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