Living Regret Free
The Lovely Stars was a holistic lifestyle blog created by Samantha Roberts, operating from 2014 to 2016. Writing on a wide range of alternative health topics, The Lovely Stars encouraged readers to live naturally, authentically, and creatively.
Originally published February 19, 2016
A few nights ago I had a dream that left me shaken.
I was given the opportunity to communicate to my younger self – to the 15-year old version of me.
I could tell her anything and everything; there were no limits or boundaries for me to observe. So, I began to excitedly tell her everything she was due to face in life, recounting milestones, achievements, and the twists and turns that life would bring her way.
But, as I began to share our life’s narrative with her, a sinking feeling came over me.
I had a lot of regrets.
To be clear, I am happy with where I am at in my life. But when I closely inspect the years that came before, there is an urge to do things differently.
It’s not profound regret; it’s just a wiping up of tiny little messes that you didn’t recognize as mess when they were going on. – Toni Morrison
In the dream, I began to coach my younger self and direct her actions so that she would not follow in my same footsteps. I tried to encourage her to choose differently, to do better.
And in that moment, in the dream… it felt amazing to have a do-over.
But we don’t get do-overs in real life. This is the real deal, and there is no way I could actually go back and change the past.
So naturally, I woke up feeling frustrated. Just moments ago, I had the power to overcome poor choices and choose a different path. I was able to use my wisdom, learned experience and adult perspective to avoid some big, painful mistakes. Instead, I awoke to the reality that life only moves in one direction. Forward.
But then, after a few moments of feeling sour and stuck, an idea struck.
“I may not be able to guide and influence my past self. What is done is done. But, I can easily imagine what my future self would tell my current self to do differently.”
I sat up and really thought about it. In ten years, what will I think when I look back on now? What advice would I give myself? What would I deem as important and worth my attention?
Suddenly, I had gained some very valuable perspective.
A few things immediately came to mind.
- Stop watching so much TV.
- Prioritize being kind and patient. Embody grace.
- Use sunscreen and be diligent about moisturizing.
- Value time spent with friends and family. Don’t take people I care about for granted.
- Make the most of every spare moment to create.
- Turn away from gossip and toward compassion.
- Be consistent.
After completing this exercise, a sense of focus and control returned to me. I don’t need to be sad about the past, because I have the power to change my future.
Being present and living in the moment are important practices that I truly believe can powerfully transform your life. But at times, these approaches can be used as a cop-out to our grander vision of ourselves, releasing us from long term accountability. By taking a step back and assessing your current attitudes and behaviors within the context of who you want to be – physically, mentally, spiritually – in 10 years, you can take more ownership of your habits and focus more on your truest values.
I deeply encourage each of you to do this exercise with me. Consider what advice your hypothetical future self would give you about how you are living your life today, and take action on the behaviors you have been putting off that you know will help you live a regret free life. It will probably be uncomfortable, and it might mean watching fewer episodes of Top Chef. But overall, I will bet that it is worth it.
Imagine that you are sitting at a table with your future self. She may be five, ten, even twenty years older than you are now. She understands that life is unpredictable and messy, and that you must make mistakes and learn a lot of things on your own. But she also has some good advice for you.
What is that advice?