6 Steps to No Regrets!

It grabbed my attention, and actually startled me when I read it.  I spent some time researching its validity, concluding it was a common theme.

“We are more likely to finish life with a longer list of regrets than achievements.”

 A broad cross-section of people, when asked about things they wished they would have done, identified a significant list of regrets, falling into some common categories.  You can call this a list of life “do-over’s.”

Career do-over’s:

  • Worked less-sacrificed so much to have gained so little.
  • Pursued a career versus a job.
  • Finished their degree or education.  Put the effort into school now seeing it would have changed the course of their lives.
  • Quit working for bad organizations and bad leaders/bosses.

Family/Relationships do-over’s:

  • Spent more time with family
  • Took time to teach their kids important “stuff.”
  • Made family relationships a priority-failures were painful.
  • Built and held on to lasting relationships.
  • Expressed thanks for the love, support and encouragement they received.
  • Been more forgiving – letting go of hurts and wounds.

Personal/Health do-over’s:

  • Traveled more, especially when they were young.
  • Took better care of themselves.  Poor health decisions made their life much more difficult and challenging.
  • Said no to “stupid” when they were younger.
  • Exhibited the courage to pursue dreams and ambitions.
  • Lived with less focus on pleasing others – especially parents.
  • Worried less about what other people thought, money, and health.
  • Recognized happiness was a choice.
  • Enjoyed having fun, laughed more frequently, and ignored the urgent and immediate.
  • Been more generous with their time and money.

Did this list grab your attention?  Maybe it startled you like it did me.  Each of us receives a daily gift of 24 hours.  How we choose to spend our 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds in a day will ultimately determine the depth of our accomplishments.  It will also determine if we too will have a list of regrets.

When I read this list of regrets it reminds me of why I started a dream list back in 1981.  The headline on my list reads “Dream List – Desires for Life!”  My first list started with nearly 100 items on it, I carried the original list around with me for years, prioritized it, and added to it regularly.  Now over 30 years later, I have three objectives in mind when I review the list every quarter.  First, to cross off the goals I achieved, second to add new goals to the list, and finally to pick new goals to focus on going forward.

It is fun to check off an item on my “Dream List,” and note the year it was accomplished.  However, looking over my list heightens my awareness of potential regrets.  Here are four dreams I have crossed off my list that I will not achieve.

  • #22 Attend a World Series with Dad
  • #43 Learn to play the piano
  • #59 Take the boys to Disney World
  • #72 Take Dad to the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown – added after taking my sons Cooperstown.

Yes, I gave up on playing the piano.  At the end of a lesson, after a couple months of lessons, my teacher asked me an important question.  Jim, “Are you practicing?”  When I told her I was practicing she said, “You might not be blessed with great musical talent, so you are going to have to practice harder.”  I did not return for another lesson, and I crossed playing the piano off my list.  I was unwilling to invest the time needed to overcome my lack of talent.

My boy’s are now 24 and 21.  Not prime ages for going to Disney World.  I should have focused on this goal a number of years ago.  Good thing this is not a life altering parental failure.  But I missed an experience we could have enjoyed and built a memory around.  Update dream #59 to taking the boy’s kids to Disney World.  How to avoid a regret?  In this case, reframe the dream.

Some goals/dreams are harder than others to cross off because they are regrets.  My dad loved baseball, introduced me to the game, and bought me my first baseball cards.  He passed away before we made it to a World Series or Cooperstown.  I always thought there would be time to make these trips.  I have now highlighted #116 on my list, take my mom to a Rose Parade.

Life does move fast and seemly even faster the older we get.  God places dreams on our hearts, it is up to us to take action.  I currently have 141 items on my “Dream List/Desires for Life!.”  I have been working on this list for over 30 years and still have nearly 60 unachieved dreams.  Whether you are starting with an unfinished list, or do not have a list of all, wherever you are, it is exactly the right place to start.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”  C. S. Lewis

 Here are six steps to turn dreams into reality.

  1. Build your own dream list.  Just you and a blank sheet of paper.  Whatever comes to mind, write it down.  Where do you want to travel, who would you like to meet, what experiences would you like to enjoy, what would you like to learn, what relationships would you like to begin or improve, or who would you like to help.  Look at the things people would like to have a “do-over” on.  Don’t stop until you reach 100.
  2. Now the fun begins!  Start by picking one item from your list, to work on this year, in each of the following categories.
    • Family
    • Personal development
    • Financial
    • Career development/achievement
    • Community/Service
  3. Write each goal down as if you have already achieved it.  (Check out my post “4 Steps to Achieving Your Resolutions to learn more.)
  4. Identify the benefits you will enjoy from achieving the goal.
  5. Review your goals weekly.
  6. Review your progress with a coach/mentor frequently.
  7. If you complete one of the items, pick another one and get to work.
  8. Pray over your plan frequently.  God designed us for success and has a great plan for each of us.  He will place the dreams on our hearts if we give Him the opportunity.

“A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”  – John Barrymore

 Below in the comment section I have identified a couple of my dream list items, I am working on in 2014.  Take a moment and share one or two of the dreams you are going to accomplish this year.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “6 Steps to No Regrets!

  1. 2014 Dream List items to achieve?
    1. Attend a live Broadway play in NYC.
    2. Launch Impactful Notes.
    3. Attend Andrew’s college graduation.
    4. Celebrate another wedding anniversary! (#32)

    What about you? Let’s help each other do more, be more and give more!

  2. Jim, so true. Set your goals, review them frequently and act on them.
    Mary and I are acting on one of those dreams by becoming world travelers and experiencing the many cultures on this planet. We will be living in Ecuador for the next two years as a base for traveling and experiencing South and Central America before moving onto Europe.
    We are setting up a blog to document those travels and all that we will learn on this new adventure. We will share it with you and your readers.
    We of course will be back in LA from time to time as my son, David, now 42 years young who just had his first child Mason, now a 15 month old running whirling scallion, terrorizing their household.

    • Wayne, looking forward to reading and hearing about your adventures! You have always lived with purpose and a shining example of how to do it with no regrets! Maybe you will be willing to guest post sometime.

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