I have a question for you:
What were 3 of the best decisions you made last year?
Wondering why I’m looking backward when we’re on to a new year? Well, most of us live by default, rather than by design. And a lot of what we do, we do on autopilot.
We blink, and 10 years have gone by, and we haven’t made the progress we thought we would toward our dreams.
For that reason, taking a moment to think about the decisions we’ve made intentionally over the last year helps us move closer to the life we want—one where we find the courage to lean into our full potential.
Why is this important?
Because when we don’t do this, many of us will end up dying with regrets.
Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse in Australia, spent 20 years listening to those in their final moments. Story after story she held space for their painful truths. What she heard she put into an essay that then became a book called The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.
Here are the regrets:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish I had let myself be happier.
Do you see yourself in any of these regrets?
I do—and I’ll probably pick up the phone and call a friend right away.
How do we avoid regret? We get very intentional about the decisions that we make. We remove autopilot living and we build on the positive direction in our lives.
That is why my opening question is so important—for all of us.
So, what were 3 of my best decisions over the last 12 months?
I actually took a few days to think about this and here’s where I landed.
1. The decision to continue intermittent fasting.
My body’s biology doesn’t do well with the physiological and psychological clutter that comes from grazing all day long. This was a painful truth I ignored for decades. Today my first meal is between 11-1pm and my second is between 4-6pm and my relationship with food is the best it’s ever been.
Being intentional about the timing of my meals has been incredibly freeing.
I love the foods I eat and how I feel when I eat them. I intentionally splurge, and I don’t feel any FOMO or deprivation. For decades the topic of food felt heavy. That’s no longer the case. On my deathbed I know I won’t have the regret that I wished I had figured out food.
2. The decision to get rid of all of our belongings and temporarily move.
Over 16 years ago we bought a house that had toxic mold in the attic. Although it had been remediated before I moved in, I began to develop autoimmune conditions. And then a few years ago, unbeknownst to us, we had a water heater leak. I could fill a page single-spaced with all the symptoms I’ve had from mold I’ve never seen.
Two months ago, after a visit to Urgent Care, I moved into a mold-safe 800 square foot 1-bedroom apartment with my family of 4 and our dog Lulu.
I had no idea I’d like our new space so much and that we would need so little.
Embracing this mindset has helped us as we’ve emptied our house and given away our things in preparation for our final remediation. And I’m healing! Each day I’m feeling better than the day before. I’m grateful that I won’t regret that I could have done more to reclaim my health.
3. The decision to not play mind games with my kids.
What does this even mean? To me, it means to apologize after snapping at them and to try to do better. How? By learning how to regulate my adult emotions so I don’t get triggered as easily the next time. No silent treatment and no walking around as if nothing has happened. Because even if I as the adult have moved on that interaction is still being played over and over in a kid’s mind and they don’t understand why we’re acting as if nothing has happened.
So I own up to my outbursts, and my kids laugh and say, Yes, you were crazy! Then we talk. And I thank them for their patience as I continue to figure out parenthood.
Everyone feels safe to be themselves again. I don’t want my kids to think that they need to behave in a certain way for me to like them—that they have to walk on eggshells around me ever. So I’m teaching them that there aren’t eggshells.
Because of this decision, my kids have both told me how comfortable they are telling me about their lives and how easy it is to talk to me. I won’t ever regret that I was too hard on my kids.
All three of these decisions have helped me create a more meaningful and authentic life. They’ve liberated me from an average existence.
Yet, they weren’t an immediate yes. In fact, I was hesitant. I had good reasons to make changes, and good reasons not to make changes.
I’m so glad I got out of my own way.
So back to you.
What are 3 of the best decisions you’ve made over the last 12 months?
Make time for this question, you are worth living a life of fewer regrets.
About the Author: Heather Aardema is an optimistic build-er-upper, momma of two boys, mountain biker, and fan of homemade and not-perfect. She’s the founder of School of Living Lighter—where she helps women tackle their clutter, uncomplicate their lives, and lose weight for good—read more of her essays at School of Living Lighter.