Living with Less Regret

Living with Less Regret

Practicing 3 disciplines leads to a life with less regret.

“I thought I’d have more time.” When I hear that phrase, it breaks my heart. At a funeral, an estranged child looks upon his father’s coffin and utters, “I thought I’d have more time to work it out with Dad.” Why do we wait for some mythical future opportunity to attend to things that really matter? We take our time on earth for granted. The busyness and daily grind of life edge out—even stomp out—living with greater intention and being ready to die with peace.

None of us knows our expiration date.

If you are like most people, denying your mortality lulls you into believing time is on your side. Not true. Sorry to burst your bubble.

No one knows his or her expiration date!
Photo credit: Mark Turnauckas via Flickr creative commons


As I wrote this post, I wanted to use the title “Living Without Regret.” But honestly, I don’t believe that’s possible. We are all flawed human beings. We make mistakes. We need forgiveness and grace.

Yet, we can experience less regret when we live with greater intention.

In his New York Times best-selling book Essentialism, author Greg McKeown offers this story. Think of your closet. If you are like most people, there are many—maybe even way too many—pieces of clothing or shoes you never wear. Your closet, like mine, might be rather stuffed, even overflowing.

What a great metaphor for life. Haven’t we all stuffed the closet of our lives too full? Somehow we just keep trying to cram more things and more activities into our lives, often without considering the true value of what we’re grasping for. Our lives become filled with noise and clutter. Our resources are consumed, often without sufficient thought or intentional decision-making. We inadvertently crowd out what really matters the most.

McKeown defines Essentialism as “the disciplined pursuit of less.” I’ll confess. Much of my life has been about the undisciplined pursuit of more. One of the hardest lessons in life to learn—and remember—is that more does not yield joy or peace. When I pursue more, the less present I am for what matters most in my life. When I chase more, the less I appreciate what blessings I’ve already received. When the undisciplined pursuit of more infiltrates my life, I am far more susceptible to my human frailties. I become less…less patient, less compassionate, less generous, less true to the values I hold dear.

Can you relate? Do you ever feel driven to pursue more—and end up feeling less?

May I gently nudge you to bravely hit the pause button? Take a deep breath—before your life is changed by an unexpected twist, diagnosis or death—and while you still have time to create the sacred space to examine your life.

Living with less regret begins by practicing three disciplines.

  1. The discipline of perspective. Begin with the end in mind, so said Dr. Stephen Covey. When you fix your eyes on your destination, daily challenges fold more gracefully into the truth of a bigger story. For me, that story is my faith journey; my destination is heaven. My perspective is shaped by my belief in God. Following Him creates focus. I experience less regret when I remain true to my faith. On the other hand, when I become self-centered and selfish, I lose perspective. I complain. I chase after more.

    What shapes your perspective?

  2. The discipline of self-reflection. I’ve noticed lately how many people use the word “process” to explain the emotional work of life. If you are like most people, you need time to process what is happening in you and around you. Grappling with your inner thoughts and emotions is necessary to till the garden of your soul. Pull a few weeds. Plant some new seeds. Journaling is the sunshine…it can shed light. Prayer is the living water that nourishes, restores and revives the soul.

    Do you have a daily or weekly discipline of reflection?

  3. The discipline of recalibration. Acknowledging failures and owning mistakes is difficult. Yet, honestly and humbly recognizing your shortcomings is the necessary precursor to recalibrating. God’s mercies are new every day. Be merciful to yourself and begin anew. With a clear perspective and with an honest assessment of your present reality, you can make adjustments or even chart a new course for the remainder of your life.

    Do you need to hit the reset button and recalibrate your life journey?

Honestly facing your mortality serves as a catalyst to live more deliberately and with less regret.

When you prepare for the end-of-life journey, you create an opportunity to preempt life’s regrets. When you earnestly consider your final days, if you are like most people, you might be confronted with regrets from your past. Just for this moment, can you think of one thing you can do today to address a past regret? Is there a phone call to make, an apology to offer, a relationship that needs tending? Living with less regret requires owning your mistakes, and making amends as best you can.

Exercising these three disciplines will help you to live with greater intention and less regret. Think of it as fitness for your soul; it’s a deeper level of heart health. You will experience more peace when your daily life—the investment of your time, energy and resources—aligns with the deepest values you hold in your heart. And here’s the bonus: you can be ready—whenever the time comes—to die with peace.

QUESTION: How have you learned to live with less regret? Would you please share your story and inspire others via social media? Please share this post with your comment.



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