How to Live a Life with No Regrets

How to Live a Life with No Regrets

This is Entrepreneurs of Faith, a Sunday episode of Monetization Nation. I’m Nathan Gwilliam, your host. In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss how to live a life with no regrets.

If your life flashed before your eyes, would you have any regrets? 

In a 2012 sermon, “Of Regrets and Resolutions,” Dieter Uchtdorf, a German aviator, airline executive, and religious leader, explained that a nurse who cares for the terminally ill often asks her patients a simple question as they prepare to leave this life: “Do you have any regrets?” 

“Being so close to that final day of mortality often gives clarity to thought and provides insight and perspective,” Uchtdorf said. “So when these people were asked about their regrets, they opened their hearts. They reflected about what they would change if only they could turn back the clock.”

If we could turn back the clock, what would we change? How would we be different? As entrepreneurs, we have to make constant decisions. Sometimes, we may make choices we regret. For example, this week I thought of some team members that I let go of over the years, and a business partnership that didn’t end well, and what I could have done better in those situations. 

A Near-Death Experience

Marshall Goldsmith, an American executive leadership coach, and author, shared his near-death experience on his website, MarshallGoldsmith.com. He had been on a flight to Santa Barbara when the plane suddenly took an “enormous” dip. 

“We have a minor problem,” Goldsmith recalled the pilot announces. “The landing gear isn’t working. We are going to circle the airport until we run out of fuel so we can land safely with the wheels up.”

Goldsmith explained he was terrified for his life. The moment seemed to last forever, giving him a chance to reflect. He asked himself, “What do I regret?”

“The only answer I could come up with was that I had never adequately thanked the many people who had been good to me in my life. I told myself, ‘If I ever get back down on the ground safely, I will thank these people,’” Goldsmith wrote. 

After the plane landed safely, Goldsmith traveled to his hotel and started writing thank-you notes to the people he was grateful for in his life. After he had reflected on his regrets, he immediately took action and made a change. Now, he makes a conscious effort to be grateful for everyone around him, especially in his business. 

“That was the moment I became a connoisseur of gratitude, a virtuoso at thanking. I’m always thanking people now in my emails, letters, seminars, and life. The last thing I say on most phone calls is not ‘goodbye’ but ‘thank you,’” Goldsmith wrote. 

If we were to have a similar experience, what would we regret? What lesson could we learn? What would we want to do better? What changes would we make? Not only does this lesson apply to our lives, but also to our businesses. Goldsmith was able to reflect on his regrets in his business, and then make a change by constantly being grateful for his customers, clients, and employees. 

5 Ways to Overcome Regrets

As entrepreneurs who are humans, we will make a lot of mistakes and wrong choices. It is inevitable. We may lose a client, launch a marketing campaign that fails, or release a product no one likes. However, we don’t have to live in regret. How do we get to the point where, when someone asks us if we have any regrets, we can confidently say no?

Here are five steps we can take to overcome our regrets. 

1. Reflect

Sometimes we may not know what we will regret in the future as we live our present lives. In order to make changes, we first need to recognize what changes we want to make. We can do this by setting aside time to reflect. 

Without reflection_Blog

Goldsmith didn’t realize he had regrets until he had a near-death experience. He didn’t realize he lacked gratitude for the people he worked with until he was forced to assess his life. Even though a near-death experience can provide meaningful insights about ourselves, we don’t need to have one to determine what changes we should make in our lives now. We simply need to take the time to reflect on what we wish we were doing better.

Margaret J. Wheatley, an American writer, teacher, speaker, and management consultant, said, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” 

We should reflect on our leadership abilities. Are we kind? Do we appreciate our employees? We should reflect on our business processes. Is there a step we can take out? Are we missing something? When we set aside time to reflect, we can stop bad habits and prevent regrets in the future. 

2. Accept

When we make a wrong choice, we need to accept it. We shouldn’t continue to feel guilty over a mistake we made years ago. We need to accept the fact that everyone makes mistakes. Uchtdorf said a common regret many people have is, “I wish I had let myself be happier.” We shouldn’t let our shortcomings, mistakes, or failures ruin our chance to be happy or successful.

Steve Maraboli, a speaker, best-selling author, and behavioral science academic, said, “We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.” 

Once we accept that we will make wrong choices and mistakes in our lives, it will be easier to forgive ourselves and move on, continuing on the path to success. 

3. Apologize 

If we have hurt someone else, we need to apologize. In our businesses, this could mean acknowledging poor leadership skills and making a promise to do better for our employees or partners. 

As entrepreneurs, we often fall into leadership positions and have to spend most of our time working with others. As we run a business, we need to make sure we aren’t leaving our relationships at the bottom of our priority list. One common thing we need to apologize for in the workplace is neglecting our relationships. If we don’t take the time to really build our relationships and apologize for our past mistakes, our workplace won’t run as efficiently or be as successful. 

Uchtdorf explained that a common mistake we make is ignoring the people around us because we are too consumed with our projects. He said, “Isn’t it true that we often get so busy?” Uchtdorf said. “And, sad to say, we even wear our business as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life. Is it? I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished. I can’t see it.”

We all make_Blog

When we focus on all of the tasks we need to accomplish, it can be easy to forget about being a human and working with others. When this happens, we need to take the time to apologize. As we start apologizing for our mistakes, we will build better relationships with our employees, partners, and customers. Once we have apologized we can begin to make amends. 

Uchtdorf continued, “I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time.” When we admit mistakes and apologize to those around us for things even as small as being too busy, we will begin to have fewer regrets in our lives. 

4. Learn & Improve

The more we see our mistakes as learning opportunities and chances for improvement, the less regret we will have. After Goldsmith reflected on his regrets, he decided to learn from them and find a way to improve. As we do this in our businesses, our mistakes will no longer be failures, but a sign we are moving forward to reaching our full potential. 

A common regret many people have is, “I wish I had lived up to my potential.” During our life on earth, we are meant to grow and learn. If we can do this, we will have less to regret. 

“Our Heavenly Father sees our real potential,” Uchtdorf said. “He knows things about us that we do not know ourselves. He prompts us during our lifetime to fulfill the measure of our creation, to live a good life, and to return to His presence.” He continued, “Let us resolve to follow the Savior and work with diligence to become the person we were designed to become. Let us listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do so, Heavenly Father will reveal to us things we never knew about ourselves. He will illuminate the path ahead and open our eyes to see our unknown and perhaps unimagined talents.”

As we open our minds and hearts to learn new things and understand what God wants of us, we will become better people. In our businesses, we should constantly have the mindset of growth. We want to learn from our mistakes and regrets so we can improve.

5. Change

After we have recognized the regrets we have or could have in the future, we need to make changes. We need to take what we have learned and begin to apply it in our lives. We can do this by making resolutions and goals to improve. 

Uchtdorf explained, “The more we devote ourselves to the pursuit of holiness and happiness, the less likely we will be on a path to regrets. The more we rely on the Savior’s grace, the more we will feel that we are on the track our Father in Heaven has intended for us.”

As we strive to do better in our businesses, as we reflect, accept, apologize, learn, and make changes, we will begin to live a life free of regret. We will get to the point where we can say “no” when we are asked, “Do you have any regrets?”

“[W]e should not be like the boy who dipped his toe in the water and then claimed he went swimming. As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we are capable of so much more. For that, good intentions are not enough. We must do. Even more important, we must become what Heavenly Father wants us to be.”

Key Takeaways

Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. Sometimes we may not know what we will regret in the future as we live our present lives. When we set aside time to reflect, we can stop bad habits and prevent future regrets we will have with our businesses. 

2. Everyone makes mistakes. Once we accept that we will make wrong choices, it will be easier to forgive ourselves and move on, continuing on the path to success. 

3. When we focus on all of the tasks we need to accomplish, it can be easy to forget about being a human and working with others. If we realize this is something we are doing, we need to take the time to apologize. 

4. The more we see our mistakes as learning opportunities and chances for improvement, the less regret we will have.

5. After we have recognized the regrets we have or could have in the future, we need to make a change so we can live a life without regrets.

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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