I read an interesting article about the biggest regrets most people have, written by Diana Bruk. According to the article we imagine those regrets are about mistakes we think we have made. But a new study “indicates that the old adage still rings true: it’s not the things you do in life that you regret, it’s the things you don’t do….Cornell psychologists identified three elements that make up a person’s sense of self. Your actual self consists of qualities that you believe you possess. Your ideal self is made up of the qualities you want to have. Your ought self is the person you feel you should have been according to your obligations and responsibilities. In surveying the responses of hundreds of participants in six studies, the researchers found that, when asked to name their single biggest regret in life, 76% of participants said it was not fulfilling their ideal self.”
In short, we sacrifice our dreams, aspirations and goals for what we feel we “ought” to do. I think that’s true to a great extent. But when I think back on a young me, I didn’t really spend any time dreaming or aspiring to be anything in particular. I think that’s a pretty important conversation for parents to have with their children but it’s easy to put it off and just let it slide. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to have that conversation because 1) it requires a time of thinking and reflecting and 2) I couldn’t be still long enough to do it. A couple of examples: I would love to have the ability to play a musical instrument. When I was young, I took piano lessons for a while but I didn’t practice. Mama said no practice, no lessons and I agree completely. Why pay for lessons when the real learning is in the hours of practice? Playing an instrument was not a dream for me at that time so I sacrificed a future dream for “goofing-off” time; now I have nothing to show for the dream that came along later in my life. I have also dreamed of writing a book but so far I’ve only managed to write a little over 100 blog posts.
The article concludes with the following paragraph:
“It (the study results) also implies that we need to stop making excuses for our own inaction. So learn that language you’ve always wanted to study. Take that backpacking trip through Asia you’ve been talking about for ages. Write that book that’s been tinkering around in your head for years. Don’t leave it for tomorrow. There’s only today.” Ouch!