Today is the International Day of Happiness, a worldwide initiative of the United Nations in which countries across the globe share smiles. It is on this awareness day that I’ve chosen to delve into what some may view as a rather unhappy topic — regret.
When there are more years behind than ahead, a life loved and well-traveled is always accompanied with regrets: the things that you wish you hadn’t done or the opportunities that you wish you had taken.
In fact, a widely published study by a nurse who worked with patients just before they died took record of the most common regrets that they expressed. Here is the top of the list:
>> I wish I followed my dreams and not what others expected.
>> I wish I spent less time at work.
>> I wish I had spoken my mind.
>> I wish I stayed in touch with friends.
All of these probably have a ring of truth that can apply to anyone’s life no matter their age. They speak to human nature.
Yet regret is not the enemy. Oftentimes when we regret not taking one path, we bury the benefits of the path that we did take.
Had you taken the job you turned down, would you have met your current best friend? Had you saved more money, what experiences would not be a part of your life?
Everything serves a purpose.
If you can’t reconcile and see the value of choosing one path over another, living with regrets can also be a powerful tool to drive us to live differently. Many who devoted a lot of time at work deeply regret that they missed their children’s moments that are now gone.
One can’t negotiate with time lost.
However, it is possible to make better choices today. We can make more space in our lives for happiness and time for people who matter.
Allowing friends to fall by the wayside is a common issue for busy, hard-working people. Yet in the final moments of life, relationships and connection are what we value most. We need to save space for friendship in our calendar and heart.
As for the nurse who polled her patients just before they died, fifth most popular regret was this: I wish I had let myself be happier.
In their near-death wisdom, these patients discovered that happiness was always within their control.
Perhaps the things they devoted their energies too didn’t matter so much after all. Their greatest realization of all was to realize that happiness is a choice, an attitude and a habit.
So on this day of International Happiness, take inventory of personal regrets and allow them to be a powerful force for transformation.
Here’s a great place to start: If you were to die today with no chance to say anything to anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? It’s never too late to pick up the phone.
Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit yourhappinessu.com.