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Life lessons to reflect on…

Sep 25, 2023

Regrets, I’ve had a few

I made a mistake recently. I made a wrong decision. The consequences were nothing serious I hasten to add, but looking back, if I needed to make a decision again in those circumstances, maybe my judgement would lead to a different choice. And that’s the point- looking back, I would make a different decision. For every decision we make is the right one at the time.

Casting your mind back, perhaps two, five, ten or twenty years to a choice you made, something you did or said, is there anything that you still get a wince of regret or guilt about?

The thing is, if you are certain that the person you’ve grown and developed into wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes as the person you were then, then stop beating yourself up with guilt because you are condemning an innocent person.  The crucial thing is to take full responsibility for the act; feel genuine remorse, learn from it and let it go. You can never grow into the full potential you have as a human being whilst you are stuck with a past event that you can’t forgive yourself for.

And so, yes, I might still wince about my decision, but I know I made it in good faith, according to all the information I had at the time, according to my values, beliefs and my experiences.

Hindsight is 20/20 vision. And wouldn’t we all love a crystal ball?! But we live and we learn. That’s why I am always fascinated to read other people’s life lessons because it is an interesting alternative perspective, and perhaps a learning point.

You live and you learn

I recently came across some life lessons offered in a newspaper column. Regina Brett wrote her musings for The Plain Dealer– a newspaper based in Cleveland, Ohio. The list went viral and as can often happen with social media, something got lost in translation and Brett’s reported age somehow changed from 45 to 90.  Brett wrote the life lessons as she reflected on her life so far, and as she hit 50, she reviewed and edited them and added another five lessons, according to what she had learnt in those intervening five years. Maybe though, someone felt it sounded more poignant and reflective if written from a nonagenarian’s point of view.

Apparently, Brett receives at least nine emails a day with people marvelling at how young she looks for 90 when they’ve Googled her picture.

I love Brett’s life lessons, even if they were written by someone who was the age I am currently at, as opposed to someone heading for a centenary; they are still sage advice and we’d all do well to take heed off.

There are different editions of Brett’s list of life lessons- some have edited out references to God, some publish the original list which she wrote before her 50th Birthday when she added another five to celebrate growing older. Attempting to stay true to Brett’s advice, here is her final list… 

  1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
  2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
  3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
  5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
  6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
  7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
  8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
  9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
  10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
  11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
  12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
  13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
  15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
  16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
  17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
  18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
  19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
  20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
  21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
  22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
  23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
  24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
  25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
  26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"
  27. Always choose life.
  28. Forgive everyone everything.
  29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
  31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
  33. Believe in miracles.
  34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
  35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
  36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.
  37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
  38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
  39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
  40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
  41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
  42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
  43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
  44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
  45. The best is yet to come.
  46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
  47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
  48. If you don't ask, you don't get.
  49. Yield.
  50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.


Advice to live by

There may be some who don’t agree with all that Brett has listed, elements may jar with their beliefs but I think it’s interesting that as a whole, what is being communicated is that life is short, and we don’t know how short; life is for living, for enjoying, for happiness; for being grateful for what you have; that life isn’t always easy but with resilience, you can keep moving forward. Ultimately, life is about living consciously as opposed to sleepwalking through it and getting to the end and wondering what happened, or indeed, it is about not wishing life away.

So much of Regina Brett’s advice echoes the ethos of The Winning Edge – to live life consciously means you know what you want, that you have a sense of purpose and that in doing so, you are not buffeted around by the flippers and springs of other people and life’s events.

Of course, things happen in life that we do not choose, but we come back to number 25 on Regina Brett’s list- happiness- that you are in charge of your own happiness; if happiness is a programme that runs in the background of your life, it means you are better able to cope with the curve balls that life will invariably throw at you, which will, over time, take time to process and cope with, but you will have that resilience if you have that happiness which you have created for yourself.

And we might not always get it right. We might make decisions that later on we regret. So don’t beat yourself up. Reflect, learn, and move on. These are moments of growth.

In terms of Brett’s list, I do think one could be added: ‘Never believe everything you read on the internet.’ Brett was of course 45 years old when she wrote the original life lessons list – not 90!

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