Some words of advice. As you get older, simplify. We spend a lifetime accumulating, building, searching, making lists, collecting, worrying – and what does it all add up to?
Imagine it all fits into a sack or a backpack; we haul it around, if not literally, we carrying in our subconscious. We all want to grow up and be something, so we climb the ladder, we strive to keep up with the Jones, we live at or beyond our means, we try to please everyone, and we carry life experiences usually to the grave.
George Clooney in the film, Up in the Air, had his backpack that he used as a prop for speaking engagements. His character promoted simplifying your life, and in the end, his life was carrying around a lot more baggage than he realized.
So should you empty your backpack of family, friends, job, obligations and all of your belongings? Sure, go ahead. No, seriously, don’t do that. The point is to periodically re-evaluate and make adjustments. Put your time and energy where it is most valuable and hopefully gives you the greatest return. And, if you can lighten your load in the process, that might be what you need.
As you near retirement age, it is important to take stock, and maybe reduce your stock. If you downsize your home, you are forced to review your stuff and decide what to keep and what to give or throw away. George Carlin had a comedy routine about stuff. He observed that we were always collecting more stuff and then we needed a larger place to put your extra stuff. We used to be hunter/gatherers; now we are collectors.
Our lives have many buckets and each is there for a reason. Life is complicated, or we make it complicated. We get busy with our lives, the lives of our family, our jobs/careers, our homes, our hobbies or interests, our health, our friends, and anything else that competes for our time. Imagine each of those things is a bucket. We fill each with time, money, effort, emotion, energy, etc. The bucket can fill us or drain us, or both. Every bucket is different. The challenge is to have the right buckets and the right combination of buckets. Every so often, examine the buckets and redistribute if necessary. You do the same with your financial investments, so can it work with your life?
Buckets, sacks and backpacks. We carry a lot of stuff with us. Examine your stuff. Offload what you don’t absolutely need, and resume your journey.
Like Frank Sinatra sang: “Regrets. I’ve have a few.”
Most of us can relate. There are things we regret that we didn’t do, or things we didn’t say to people, opportunities passed or mistakes we would undo. Those kinds of things keep counselors employed.
I searched for what people listed as their biggest regrets. Here are the most frequent responses.
- Not spending time with someone in ill health, who later died.
- Not pursing a dream, usually as a career goal.
- Not taking a risk.
- Not following their heart.
- Working too much at the expense of family.
- Not staying in touch with friends.
- Worrying too much about what others thought.
- Not letting go of something, holding on, wanting to be right.
In the film, Moonstruck, Cher famously slaps Nicholas Cage with the words, “Snap out of it!” The Cage character decides to act on something he knows he’ll regret if he doesn’t. If only life was that simple.
We don’t always wear regrets like a large “R” on our shirt or like walking under a dark rain cloud about to pour on us. Regrets may loom in the background and only surface when something reminds us of it. Regrets can be so powerful they prevent us from acting, or cause us to feel a sense of loss. That is pretty extreme.
Often a regret is just a reminder of a bad decision, failure to act, or just unfinished business. Regrets can teach us to choose better or learn to be more appreciative.
How do you free yourself from a regret? First, understand it, and how the regret lives in your unconscious. Is there something you can learn from it? Is there a trigger or does it relate to something currently in your life? Why was it important then? Is it still important as something you want or need to do? If so, can you find a different way to accomplish it? I regret not learning to play the piano. So take lessons even though learning may be harder now. It may, when you really think about it, no longer have relevance. Okay, then stop thinking about it.
Regrets are punishment. If you can’t change it, chuck it. Pull it out of the backpack and leave it by the side of the road. Stop hauling them around. Unburden yourself.
Life is continually about choices. Sometimes, if you don’t choose, life chooses for you. Take your choices seriously. Make them. Then move on.
Snap out of it!