53 Choices You Will Never Regret

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“Is it really so hard to tell a good action from a bad one? I think one usually knows right away or a moment afterward, in a horrid flash of regret.” ~Mary McCarthy

When it comes down to it, who we are is defined by the choices we make.

Personality type, intelligence, genes, and life circumstances all play a role in why we are where we are in life. But within these parameters, we have a myriad of choices available to us.

Some of those choices can enhance, override, or totally negate elements of the parameters. There’s a whole lot of power in choice — power for positive change and power for unpleasant outcomes.

Many of the choices and decisions we make in life, especially in our younger years, are made from ignorance, fear, or a lack of self-awareness. But time and experience teach us which choices and actions lead to regret and those that lead to happiness, fulfillment, and peace of mind.

In my half-century (+) of living, here are a few of the choices I’ve never regretted — choices that have contributed to my happiness, health, and overall peace of mind.

1. Express your real feelings even if you are scared or uncomfortable.

2. Cease trying to change the significant people in your life. Accept and love them as they are or move on.

3. Acknowledge mistakes and ask for forgiveness.

4. Talk to a counselor or coach when you can’t work it out yourself.

5. Give away the clothes you haven’t worn in the last year.

6. Stop gossiping about others.

7. Come home from work early to spend time with your family.

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.” ~Barbara Bush

8. Do the thing you’ve been dreaming about for years.

9. Make exercise a non-negotiable part of your day.

10. Ask for what you need from your spouse or partner.

11. Give your spouse or partner what they need.

12. Learn a new skill every year.

13. Give a warm smile and a dollar to the homeless guy on the street (even if you aren’t sure how the dollar will be spent).

14. Let go of a relationship that is draining you or causing heartache.

15. Under-schedule rather than over-scheduling your life.

16. Learn to meditate and practice meditation regularly.

17. Go to bed earlier and get up earlier.

18. Tell the truth even when it is embarrassing or difficult.

19. Spend less time in front of the computer, television, or smart phone.

20. Say “I love you” every single day.

21. Let go of grudges and anger as quickly as possible. Be quick to forgive.

22. Take the job you love, even if it pays you less.

23. Be appropriately honest with your children at all times.

24. Spend less on material things so you can afford more experiences.

25. Make a decision, even when you aren’t sure, rather than languishing in uncertainty.

26. Take a stand for something you know is right, even if it’s unpopular.

27. Allow yourself to be silly, goofy, and carefree.

28. Care less about what others think of you.

29. Focus intently on the task or action at hand and savor it fully.

30. Take a few moments every day to acknowledge and reflect on the good in your life.

31. Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no.

32. Plan in advance for something fun to do on the weekend.

33. Spend within your means. Seek help to get out of debt.

34. Plan and take the trip of a lifetime.

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

35. Become proficient with your computer.

36. Spend time with people in the generation behind you and learn from them.

37. Clean out the clutter and unnecessary stuff in your home.

38. Give up junk food and fast food, and eat more vegetables.

39. Say yes when someone needs your time, support, or a helping hand.

40. Make love even if you don’t feel like it at the moment you’re asked.

41. Step outside to look at a full moon, a shooting star, a rainbow, or a snowfall.

42. Play games with your family.

43. Offer praise to someone who deserves it, even when you feel jealous.

44. Do whatever you can to change anything you hate about your life. Exhaust all possibilities.

45. Don’t argue about politics or religion.

46. Take action in spite of fear.

47. Accept failure as a step in learning rather than an end result or life sentence.

48. Listen to your body and intuition as guides for changing behaviors or decisions.

49. Clean the dishes before you go to bed.

50. Drive carefully, calmly, and non-aggressively, even if it means you’ll be late.

51. Choose the funny movie over the violent one.

52. Learn to enjoy your own company.

53. If you have the choice to sit it out or dance, dance!

Are there choices in your life that you’ve never regretted? Or some that you regret and wish you could go back and change? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. That’s a great way to make choices or to realize that everything in life (each day) is a choice. Sometimes we think that things just happen. Well, perhaps they do if we’re not “on top of things” as they say.

    If we look at life as a series of choices, we begin to realize the power we have over how we feel, how we live, and how we see things. The quote by Sidney Harris is the most poignant for me … regret for the things we did NOT do.

    I don’t want to look back and wish I’d been more free, more active, more involved, and wonder why I didn’t include more adventure in my life!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Carmelo,
      Yes, living life consciously and intentionally is the way to go. When you have awareness around every choice, then you are in the creative rather than reactive position. As I’ve gotten older, I find my choices are much more conscious and related to experiences, as you mention. Adventure is a great choice. :)

      • Hi again Barrie,
        Yes, I agree. But, is it just about “as we get older?” I suppose we could say that but it’s much more than just that. So many people don’t get anywhere near this kind of depth as they age. They may get more reflective, sure, but conscious awareness is a deliberate choice.

        Aging IS wonderful. And if I may say, it appears you are as graceful as they come. But it’s because you really have opened up, observed and consciously moved into awareness. So, good for you! (am I right?)

        PS. you’re still young, Barrie!

    • I love this list! I did #53 and have not regretted it, …yet! I was in the queue at a bank and getting bored. There was some elevator music playing, so I tapped my foot, that swelled into a sway, that culminated in my asking an elderly lady behind me if she would like to dance, and she did! So we did #27 as well, whilst she practiced #36! The whole line applauded! I did #43, because the lady was a great dancer!

      I love your blogs, because they are often insightful and heartwarming.

  2. Dear Barrie,
    Your posts are loaded with wisdom of the ages and I just love them as they are truly inspirational. Thanks for that.
    Braja

  3. Barrie, I love the opening photo and of course I love thinking about choices. My favorites on your list are under-scheduling and thinking of failure as learning. I may not like it at first, but thinking of each setback or transition brings me hope, energy, and even peace.

    For me, choices are conscious shifts we make. The “choices” I regret are usually not conscious but automatic, knee jerk reactions. For some reason, I only think of choices as a positive, thoughtful response.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Marci,
      Choices are liberating, as you so eloquently remind on your blog! I totally agree about the knee jerk choices. They aren’t really choices, they are reactions where our brain takes a momentary leave of absence! If negative emotions are involved, we generally make poor choices. I think I should have added in the post that the best choices are made from a healthy, positive state of mind.

  4. Love it! I especially like this one: Come home from work early to spend time with your family. That’s so important. You never hear someone on their death bed say, “I wish I had spent more time at work.”

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, sometimes as a teacher, I was compelled to ask parents if they loved their job more than their children. Working late, working over-time, doesn’t have a fiscal reward, it’s all swallowed up by marginal or top taxes, leaving only a few procent for ones pocket. So it couldn’t be for the money that children missed their parents and had to make sense of it all by their own.
      So it had be some sort of devotion to a non-paid effort, building someone else’s dream. And since kids aren’t stupid, they sensed being NOT chosen in exchange for nothing. Still loving their parants, as kids will do, the grief had to come out somewhere.

      That was ok with me, and that had be the starting point from which we looked at the behavioural problems of the kid. Not a very popular point of view.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Sage and Erik,
      I think adults often have the misguided belief that being at work is good for the family, because you are providing resources for a better lifestyle. But there is a diminishing point of return as Erik points out. And sometimes work can be so consuming that people get caught up in the demands without daily reflecting on their true values and priorities. A wake-up call in necessary — because children need their parents to be emotionally and physically available to them.

  5. Sandra / Always Well Within says:

    I absolutely need to perfect #15: under-scheduling! These are so simple but so wise, Barrie. Thank you.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Sandra,
      I’m sure you will now that you are aware of it. It’s so easy to let life demands take over like weeds. I find I have to regularly recalibrate my activities to make sure I’m really doing what I want to be doing while allowing enough time to fully enjoy each action.

  6. Hello Barrie,
    Thanks yet again for a comprehensive post on how to have a full life. Following these tips/reminders will help anyone to note and enjoy the small details that create the big picture we call living. No. 40 is particularly interesting. Spontaneity in love making usually creates intense emotions especially if varied in time and place.
    Murigi

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Murigi,
      I’m so glad you liked it! Yes, you are right about #40. Couples need that reconnection, even when they are feeling tired or distracted.

  7. I LOVE these Barrie! Yours is such a voice of warmth and wisdom and eloquence. You’re consistently my favorite read out there. Your list here is so liberally sprinkled with common sense and “Oh yeah, of course I should do that” advice.

    #15 hit home a bit for me. I tend to overschedule way too often. But I’ve been noticing that it is in the underscheduled moments of family just being together, not even necessarily doing anything particularly “productive” that the beautiful moments and closeness and joy appear most often, even most sublimely.

    Thanks for always timely reminders.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Ken for your warm words. Yes, I totally agree with you about the best moments with family. Sometimes just sitting casually in the kitchen with them while making dinner or riding in the car evolves into a sliver of perfection.

  8. As always, your comments and advice on life are spot on and so helpful and relevant. Thank you!

  9. Love that list Barrie!
    Really enjoyed reading it. Brought positive memories and nice thoughts.

  10. Barrie, I love this list, but as I read, I thought to myself: Wow, these are all such common sense things to do. Do we all really need to be reminded?

    Thanks for posting, though. For those that don’t get it, it’s a fantastic list to start with…

  11. Paul Gresty says:

    Brilliant words of wisdom. A big thank you from across the water.
    Paul Gresty
    Manchester UK

  12. Good timing, Barrie. I was trying to figure out today how I can possibly do all I want to do in the next month or two. I need to under-schedule, not over-schedule. Sometimes I push myself too much. I’m older than you are and get impatient to accomplish things I think I ought to have done already. And I have to back up and do the baby steps and calming down and simply doing what I can and let the rest go. Like my website that needs updating and the blog I was going to start but haven’t yet. I’ll finish revising the novel I’m writing in its own time. It will get done. Someday. I need to relax and go smell my beautiful roses.

    Barb

  13. sophia Fernandes says:

    Dear Barrie,
    THE CHOICES THAT YOU HAVE LISTED ARE SO LIBERATING AND MAKES OUR HEART SO FREE TO ENJOY LIFE..ITS SO SIMPLE YET LIFE GIVING..THANK YOU SO MUCH BARRIE FOR ONCE AGAIN REFRESHING THE POWER OF LIVING WITH THESE MYRIAD CHOICES THAT MAKES LIFE SO MEANINGFUL AND WORTHLIVING. I WILL TRY TO FOCUS THIS AREA ONE DAY AT A TIME. WISHING YOU ALL THE JOY AND COMFORT THAT COMES TO YOU NATURALLY..YOU ARE TRULY INSPIRING AND LOVING..LOVE ALWAYS SOPHIA

  14. I don’t know of anything that I would add to this list ~ perfection!
    I struggle with #17, #19 and #32. This list is now printed and posted so that I can scroll through it once a week or so to see if I’m happy with my choices. If not, I have a choice to change or stay stuck. I am 57 and in of a bit of a panic . . . I have a 16 year-old son who’s nearly off to his own life. I’m happily in my second marriage to a wonderful man although my ‘new’ life has not quite ‘jelled’ . . . your list may provide the thoughts and direction I need to give myself a kick-in-the-pants to forge ahead ; ) Thanks Barrie . . .

  15. Well said.
    The 53 rules you mentioned are a good start, although the sheer number might scare people away from it. The main issue here is not so much ‘the rules’, but more about setting one selves a compressed form of life experiences. Depending on your own situation one might add a few like “Try to appreciate the weather – every say”. No matter what weather it is… See something great in even the stormiest days..

  16. I agree with all but one of these which is to – throw away clothes you haven’t worn in a year. As a vintage enthusiast I like to keep my best clothes in storage and then re-visit them. When I do it’s like getting a new wardrobe! Also I still lust over my mothers 70′s Burberry coat and various other beautiful items that were given away in a clear out.
    Great list though – thank you!

  17. Sue Anderson says:

    I love this! I happened to read it at just the perfect time. One of my favorite phrases is “Life is all about choices.” Thanks for affirming what I believe!

  18. I love this one #39. Say yes when someone needs your time, support, or a helping hand.

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