Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
Sydney J. Harris
I have spoken to you before about the serious obligations and dedications of a Gentleman. I have spoken to you about how you grow through discipline, dedication, and study. I have spoken to you about how you must develop your inner warrior and your inner scholar. And all these things are important lessons you can use to live a proper life. But is that what you want? A proper life? No. Aim for a full life!
Right after college and before I started in my “professional career”, I headed out to live what I thought would be my last big adventure before settling down. Armed with a plane ticket to arrive at Madrid, another ticket to get on a plain leaving from Paris a month later, two back packs, cash, and some maps; I headed out with no clear idea of what I was doing.
Throughout the trip, I heard the same reaction over and over from the Europeans I meet. They were surprised I was an “American” traveling Europe so young. And that is when I noticed it. Almost every person I saw from the U.S. during that month was an Old Retirees who was barely able to enjoy their trip. And that is when I became acquainted with the concept of the “Bucket list”. “I wanted to see (Insert name of Monument here) before I die”. When I asked why they never did it before, I was given every kind of explanation and excuse imaginable. After that trip I swore I would never have a Bucket List.
We’ve all heard it and even said it ourselves. “I start the Gym next Monday”, “Next year I go back to finish my studies”, “I’ll ask her out next time I see her”, and the list goes on and on. You know what? You don’t know if you have a next time. We believe that tomorrow will come and save us from today, and we start planning for it. Although planning for the future is a noble endeavor, we live in procrastinated dreams, delayed hopes, and postponed loves. We always say it’s not the right time to do this, or it’s not the right time to do that. When is it ever the right time? Tomorrow? I have some horrible news for you. It is always today and it will never be Tomorrow.
Think of everything you left unfinished last year, last week, or even yesterday. How many things did you want to do, how many places did you want to go, and how many things did you leave unsaid? The reality is it’s never the right time to do anything in life, because the right time is NOW! Every day you waste is a day you bet against yourself. When was the last time you told someone you loved them? When was the last time you said “thank you”? When was the last time you looked down a road and wondered where it leads? When was the last time you asked yourself “why not”?
So here are the top rules on how to lead a regretless life, the questions you must ask yourself every day:
1) Will it hurt someone else? Then don’t do it.
2) Will I end up hurting myself (beyond what I should)? Then don’t do it.
If the answer to 1 and 2 is no, WHY THE HELL NOT DO IT? See, 2 simple rules. To be old and wise, you first have to be young and stupid first. So make sure you become as Old and as Wise as life will allow. The reality is we are all going to die at some point or another. Healthy living and exercise will not change that we have no control over when it will happen. What we do control is when we start something, how we live, how we treat people, and how we act while we are alive. You get one try at life, but if you do it right, only one is all you need.
(Updated version of this article posted on The Good Men Project.)