The 3 Most Common Life Regrets Show Us What’s Really Important

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An Imposter-Betrayer

I should have said something. I should have said nothing. Why did I do that? Why didn’t I do that? I should have chosen differently.

If any of these cutting thoughts sound familiar, well… welcome to humanity.

Sometimes these regrets center around the bad things we’ve done. And other times they’re simply tied to missed opportunities that can add up to something significant.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf once told the story of a nurse who cared for those with terminal illnesses. Upon being asked what they would have changed about their lives, many patients gave similar answers. These answers can be condensed into three big regrets we can all definitely learn from:

1. “I wish I had spent more time with the people I love.”

family holding hands at sunset mormonOur world seems to be moving at a faster and faster pace. Weirdly enough, I know plenty of people, myself included, who sometimes view their busyness as a “badge of honor,” as Elder Uchtdorf puts it. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, we have convinced each other that this is what success always looks like.

But what and who are we missing out on as we bustle around?

Don’t get me wrong; moving productively throughout your day isn’t bad, and caring deeply about your career isn’t bad. And, of course, some people have no choice but to work many hours to support those in their care. But busy for busy’s sake can easily distract us from those who love and, oftentimes, need us.

I like Elder Uchtdorf’s imagining of what the Savior’s limited days here on earth looked like. Rather than scrambling from meeting to meeting, he saw Him “purposefully living each day” and giving others “the precious gift of His time.” 

So let’s slow down and make time for the people who matter most to us, yeah?

2. “I wish I had lived up to my potential.”

two hikers on a mountain mormonSister Sheri L. Dew once shared with Deseret News one of her “biggest regrets” in life. Growing up, she had become quite good at playing basketball and decided she wanted to play in college.

But when she showed up at the door leading into the BYU gym for try-outs, fear froze her right on the spot.

She never stepped foot in the gym for try-outs and instead spent three hours pacing outside the door. Around thirty years later, Sister Dew was invited to speak to BYU’s female athletes, so she told this story. Afterwards, the coach for the 1971 team Sister Dew almost tried-out for approached her and said that year was memorable because they were short one player.

Ouch.

I am willing to bet that we have all had similar experiences where fear and self-doubt have stepped in the way of a great opportunity. Luckily, Elder Uchtdorf has offered us this great advice:

“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.” – Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

3. “I wish I had let myself be happier.”

happy kid running through sprinklers mormon“I will be happy when I… have more money, finish my degree, reach the weekend, find a new job, get through this trial…”

Sound familiar? I fall into this thought trap more than I’d like to admit.

Waiting for a better tomorrow only dulls the reasons to be happy today. And before we know it, too many “todays” have passed by before “tomorrow” finally arrives. And even then, sometimes “tomorrow” isn’t as sweet or fulfilling as we had desperately hoped it would be.

Now is always the time to look around and take note of the reasons to have joy. Even on the hard days, there is at least one thing we can appreciate and find happiness in.

We need to remember that “this is the day which the Lord hath made” and “we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24).

What’s our biggest defense against these regrets?

Elder Uchtdorf testifies that the “deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today.”

We have the ultimate example of what it means to live a purposeful life. The Savior loved and spent time with those who needed it. He showed us that we can do hard things to reach our divine potential. He taught that there’s always a reason to be happy and grateful. Striving to live as He did gets us to where we want to be. And even when we mess up, the wonderful gift of the Atonement is there to offer a clean slate.

Remember what the Lord said to Joseph Smith when he and Martin Harris lost the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon?

“But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work” (D&C 3:10).

No matter what regrets linger in your past, each day is a fresh opportunity to be more purposeful in your actions. We are each “again called” to live the best way we can.

And moving forward, I’m sure we’ll find plenty more people to be loved, chances to be taken, and moments to be enjoyed.