Editorial rights purchased via iStock Photos
By: Sean Kernan
Don’t get caught living in your own haunted house.
You’ll be surprised by some of the things you regret.
It is often random scenes, moments that shouldn’t be significant in the grand scheme of life, but cling to your psyche like a disease.
There are other, more damaging decisions that will haunt you forever if they aren’t managed now.
Regret can become wisdom, built on the vow not to let history repeat itself.
1. Ownership of our life path
Intelligent children face an unfair burden.
From the moment they show any sign of talent, expectations are hoisted upon their shoulders.
Doctor. Lawyer. Engineer.
Anything short of prestige becomes an indictment on them and their parents.
One of the smartest guys I know, who nearly aced the SAT, ended up becoming a grade-school teacher.
This should be seen as a good thing: We want smart people working with our children, right?
Nope. People still question him, “Why not a professor? Why not a Ph.D.?”
Korean child prodigy Kim Ung-Yong, had his life taken from him after they discovered his IQ was 1-in-1,000,000,000. He was farmed out like an academic lab rat, milked for every ounce of potential.
Eventually, he walked away from it all “just” to become a tenured college professor. He is still routinely ridiculed for being a failed genius.
Kim did the right thing. He is happy now. He knew that living someone else’s dream is a betrayal of his own.
It’s also OK if you don’t have a calling. There’s nothing wrong with settling for a job you can tolerate while pursuing your interests on the side.
2. Undoing damage to your mouth
I saw a dental video when I was six years old that left me scared straight.
Horribly disfigured and crooked teeth cascaded across this video.
I realized that if I didn’t brush and take care of my teeth, I’d end up smiling like a jack-o-lantern.
I have trouble conceiving how any parent fails to teach their kids to brush. It seems like page 1 of the basic laws of parenting.
Yet I’ve met so many people who experienced exactly that. They spend years dealing with pain and embarrassment from a disfigured mouth.
I’m not perfect either. Just last week, I went to the dentist. I hadn’t been in 2.5 years because I was lazy and cheap.
Now, I’m on the hook for $1300 to get a crown and filling. If only I’d gone a year early, I’d have just gotten a filling. If I’d waited longer, there’d likely be a gap in my teeth, and more expensive work needing to be done.
My neighbor is having to spend $12,000 to get her teeth fixed and it’s only a handful of procedures.
Your teeth will need to last many decades. Get some mileage out of them.
3. Win the battle between two selves
A Cherokee woman was telling her grandson a story, “My son, a battle between two wolves happens inside us all. One is anger, jealousy, sorrow, arrogance, and self-pity.”
“The other is joy, peace, kindness, love, compassion, and truth.”
Her grandson said, “Which one wins?”
She said, “The one you feed.”
This Cherokee parable is playing out around and inside of you.
Life gives us many opportunities to blacken our hearts. There are bitter, elderly people sitting on porches right now angry about every step of their journey. They curse the fate that was handed to them.
And yet many of them had it far better than others, who are smiling and enjoying the time they have left. They know that life is a gift. They choose to let the right wolf win.
4. Our opportunity either expand or shrink
You wake up and get into a huge fight with your partner.
You stub your toe on the way out the door. You get a speeding ticket. Your dog died the day before. Your mom is battling cancer.
And if that isn’t enough, you are late on several bills.
This is one of those days where you think, “If one more person f##ks with me…I’m going to jail for something.”
Then, someone says the wrong thing to you at the office, and you lose your temper and get a bit too honest with them.
“You wonder why everyone in this office hates you and your fat ass.”
Maybe, in some small twist of good fortune, you don’t lose your job. But fast forward a few months or years, and you are suddenly working for that person.
We live in a smaller world than we think. Massive jerks can go far in the corporate world. Just as people who seem destined for Fort Nowhere, end up in corner offices.
Don’t burn bridges.
You never know who is going to be your boss. Connections add up over time.
Even people who you only passingly knew, can help you land that dream job.
5. Allocate your time wisely
I’m closing in on 40. A number of my high school classmates have just lost a parent. It seems like every week one of them is announcing it on Facebook. The usual suspects caused it: cancer, heart disease, and myriad illnesses.
My parents, knock on wood, are healthy now. But this could change at any given moment. Now, more than ever before, I’m realizing our time together can’t go on forever. I’ve made it a point to carve out more time with them.
Treat your time with loved ones as sacred. That one thing about them that annoys you, may become a thing you desperately miss.
Recap for memory: Avoid these 5 regrets later in life
- Take care of your teeth. You only get one set.
- Treat time with loved ones as sacred.
- Don’t burn bridges. You never know who your boss might be.
- Following someone else’s dream.
- Don’t give in to resentment and anger. Win the battle inside you. Feed the good wolf.