The end of the year is often a time of reflection, soul-searching, and sometimes despair for having indulged too much between Halloween and January 1st. Resolutions are haphazardly and/or desperately created to assuage our guilt for sins from our past, and we approach the new year with determination, resolve, and, sometimes, the constant reminder of newly snug clothing. Sound familiar? It’s an American rite of passage that is embedded in, and proliferated by, our instant-gratification seeking culture.
This year, I’m wondering if you might be open to viewing 2017 differently, as a stepping stone versus a final destination. While I am all about staying focused in the present moment and savoring each day, I’m wondering if you’d consider creating life changes based on where you want to be in the longer-term over the shorter-term. While it sounds dramatic, when we think of the end of our life, and what we will or will not regret, an immense sense of perspective is derived by tuning into our unique values, interests, and strengths, and how we want to paint the portrait of our lives.
My first big “no regret” decision came on September 11, 2001. I had been working 60+ hours a week for years as an accountant at a start-up in Silicon Valley. As a psychology major with aspirations of getting a PhD in health psychology, this was quite a stretch for me, and was the result of too many “yes’s” when my gut told me to say “no,” and too much fear of financial instability, even though I knew I was climbing the wrong corporate ladder. The morning of 9/11 impacted all of us, and in a moment, everything holding life together seemed incredibly fragile. I became abundantly aware of how much I relied on everyone around me to be 100% focused on their jobs. And here I was, at a job that held 20% of my interest and attention, just waiting for my stock options to vest so I could start living a life I desired. While some can do a job and leave work at work, I knew I was wired differently, and that if I didn’t make a change, I was going to regret it. I had a wonderful job, with a fabulous boss, and coworkers I truly enjoyed, but 9/11 reminded me that life is precious and I’m in charge of my decisions. I quit my job a few months later when I had a plan in place that was more aligned with my interests and values.
In terms of health, fast-forwarding 10, 20, or 30 years down the road is critical for painting the picture of what kind of life we want to have in those later years. Health coaches routinely help participants create their wellness visions by tuning into each person’s unique set of values, best experiences, strengths, and motivations. This vision, which embodies the most authentic, desired, and healthiest version of the participant, becomes a litmus test for decisions in our life. Once we know where we want to be, we can start asking ourselves how each decision aligns with our vision. If it doesn’t align, what other options do, so that we have no regrets? For instance, if we are sick and tired of losing and gaining the same 20 pounds every year, a “quick fix” diet may not pass the test, but slowly making healthy changes that don’t create extra stress does. Taking the time to build a foundation so that we don’t have regrets later takes time, energy, courage, and patience.
I can’t imagine anyone spending their last days wishing they had crash dieted more, or being grateful that they never exercised or happy that they never managed their stress or diabetes. If the choice is taking a year to slowly establish healthy habits that will serve you for years to come, or spending a year making short-term decisions, that you know are unsustainable, and berating yourself throughout the process…what would you chose? What would you regret more? You are writing your health, your life, and your story; you make these decisions, so please ask yourself, what will you regret not doing?
Here are some tips to hone into what’s most important to you and how to get there:
- Tune into your interests and values. In your heart of hearts, how do you see your health panning out? What activities and accomplishments have brought you the most joy in life? When was a time when you felt energetic, healthy, comfortable in your skin, and alive? When you think of how you want to approach the next 10, 20, or 30 years, what will you regret not adding or removing? When you are at the end of the life, what will you look back fondly on, and wish that you had done more of?
- Tap into your courage. Let’s face it, changing your life isn’t easy. Even when we know what we need to do, the gap between knowledge and motivation is often very wide. But what’s scarier, making new changes that align with what you truly want or living a life with regret?
- Just do it. Throw one leg over the fence so the rest of your body follows. Life is short. If you have a compelling health vision of where you want to be, take one little baby step in the right direction. You will gain momentum over time, but for now, something is better than nothing. One of the participants I worked with always reminded herself, “If not now, when?” Regret nothing; do it now.
- Backwards map. Start with where you want to be, health-wise (or in life), and work backwards. An easy visual is the ladder…if you want to be at the top of the ladder, what are the steps you need to take, slowly over time, to get there? Be realistic, be patient, and be positive throughout the process. Most of our proudest moments were years in the making. This process isn’t meant to be an easy, “quick fix,” it’s meant to be meaningful, authentic, and life-changing. Make the investment in yourself.
- Seek support. If you need help with #1 through 4 above, please reach out to a Wellview Health Advisor to support you throughout your wellness journey. We are here to help!
When all is said and done, as you look towards 2017 and beyond, what will you regret doing or not doing to serve your health? This is valuable information, so use it for good, and start aligning your decisions, and your life, to your interests, values, strengths, and motivations. It’s never too late to rewrite your life and to start living with no regrets.
– TANYA RUNCI, MA, ADE