It was a hot summer’s day and I browsed the mall with my friend. She and I were teenagers and enjoyed our bit of freedom before my mom picked us up at our designated meeting place.

While chatting and looking around a gift shop, a mug caught my eye. It read, “Next time around I’ll take more chances.” Instantly, I understood the message. Although thirteen, this coffee mug provided a lesson on living life fully and minimizing regrets.

Gaining Perspective

A fact of life is that there will be death. As a close friend of mine has said on occasion, “Nobody is getting out alive.” But with that morbid reminder comes the recognition that this incredible opportunity should be seized, not squandered.

After reading that mug, something changed inside me. I decided to live life in a way that would minimize regret. When at a crossroads or facing fear or change, I would ask myself “When I’m on my deathbed, what will I regret more? Doing this or not doing this?”

It’s What We Didn’t Do

There is a quote by Sydney J. Harris that states, “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

Personally, I prefer to chase my dreams, and take a chance rather than to wonder “what if” for the remainder of my days. I think not knowing and questioning possibilities is far worse than potentially getting quickly hurt in a passing moment.

I began to listen to myself and follow my heart. If I had a crush on someone, I’d let them know. If I wanted to be on a team, I tried out. If I wanted to act in a play, I auditioned. If I wanted to land a job, I applied.

5 Tips to Minimize Regrets

If you wish to minimize regret, here are some strategies that may benefit you.

1) How will you feel about something later on? Will you look back with regret, or will you be happy you tried and potentially succeed?
2) When it comes to fear and “what if,” remember that it’s easier to deal with a moment of fear rather than with a lifetime of wondering.
3) Do more of what makes you feel good. Try not to work too hard or stress too much. Travel, laugh, take long walks, and be with the people you love.
4) Don’t let your stories go untold. If you have something to say such as “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” “You’re important to me,” or “I love you,” don’t delay. You never know when your window of opportunity will close.
5) Listen to and trust yourself. Life the life you want, not the one that others think you should. You can only make yourself happy, so prioritize your goals and dreams, and go for them!

Have I been successful in my regret-free plan? Mostly yes. I have learned to speak up, listen to myself, and frame things in a way I can live with now and down the road. It isn’t foolproof though, and life continues to provide surprises, opportunities and lessons. I take them as they come and focus on living to my fullest in the present.