Health: Never too late to start living a life without regrets

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Is it possible to live a life of no regrets? Abi Jackson reports.

It’s one of the most frequent and universal woes – regret.

Not spending enough time with loved ones and failing to keep meaningful ties alive certainly seem to top the list of common regrets. Letting opportunities slip through our fingers, and not looking after our health and finances are other frequent examples.

Counsellor and agony aunt Suzie Hayman says often her clients focus on how they believe it’s “too late” to do anything.

It’s for these reasons that she decided to write a book, Live A Life Of No Regrets: The Proven Action Plan for Finding Fulfilment.

“I don’t think you can live a life with no regrets whatsoever,” she says, “but by heck, you can try!

“It’s about making changes so you do the things that don’t leave you with regrets. Or at least you can address your regrets so they don’t continue that way.

“One of the things I talk about [in the book] is who shouts loudest,” she says. “That friend or relative rings you up and you respond. Your friends text or Facebook message you, and you respond.

“It’s quite difficult sometimes to sit back and ask yourself, ‘Hang on, what is it that I should actually be prioritising? What are the choices I have?’

“Sometimes we just go with the flow, rather than standing still and thinking, ‘I can make a choice – and this is the choice I will make’.”

Hayman often encounters fathers, for instance, who may not see their children following a separation.

“I hear so many say, ‘When they grow up they’ll realise that I really did love them, even though I didn’t see them, and they’ll come back to me’. No – they won’t. Because unless you make attachments, unless you make memories together early, you’re never going to be catching up,” she says.

In many ways, the same applies to people who regret spending too much time at work.

“People might have lots of business success and money, but they’re not happy.

“What makes people happy is connections. If only we could recognise this and actually have more people saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to prioritise that – I am going to prioritise my happiness and family.”

Allowing yourself to be truly happy may mean sacrificing some degree of success and money along the way, but nobody ever regrets being happy.

A big part of this happiness is having the courage to take risks.

“You have to take risks,” she says. “I always say it would be far worse to not make the effort, than to make the effort and have it thrown back at you.

An important part of the ‘Action Plan’ Hayman outlines in her book is addressing regrets we already have.

But sadly, if it relates to the relationship we had with somebody who’s since passed away, then we need to find a way to let ourselves off the hook.

“It’s about recognising that we all have regrets,” she says. “You’re not alone, you’re not incompetent and you’re not stupid.

“It’s also about not feeling helpless and hopeless. There are things you can do to make it different.”

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