You’ll never regret being proud of yourself

One of the benefits of life experience is that you get to look back on the choices you’ve made, learn from what went well and what didn’t, and pass on some of your insights to the next generation.

But in a society obsessed with “achievement,” we tend to focus too much on what went wrong. On our failures. On our regrets.

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Ask anyone to list some of their regrets, and they’ll probably have a few examples at the ready. But ask them to list the things they’re proud of, and they might have to think a bit. Somehow, it’s ingrained in us to focus on what we could have, should have done better.

But what exactly would we have wanted to do differently? Studies consistently show that at the end of life, almost no one regrets having spent too much time with family, or not having worked hard enough. Instead, people wish they’d stayed in touch with friends or expressed their true feelings to others. Most of all, they wish they’d had the courage to follow their own path instead of living up to others’ expectations.

Imagine the opposite.

Imagine looking back and feeling proud that you’ve been a good friend to the people that mattered to you. Proud that you were honest about your thoughts and feelings. Proud that you struck a good balance between being kind to others and compassionate with yourself.

These are the hallmarks of a life well lived. Whatever short-term regrets we may have at the moment, they will be eclipsed in the end by the quality of our character. In fact, transforming such misgivings into the wisdom of experience is a way to imbue them with lasting value: a regret turned into a life lesson is a regret no more. It is, in fact, something to be proud of.

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Self improvement vs Magic

Perhaps we should be asking each other about the things that make us proud. Do it now: think of something that you feel you’ve done very well. That probably put a smile of your face, right? Working on your faults is one way to improve yourself, but by building on your strengths you create magic.

Better yet, let the process of learning and growing be one of your strengths.

That approach goes back a long way. When asked about the arduous process of perfecting his light bulb and the many mistakes made along the way, Thomas Edison famously replied that he had not failed at all: he had successfully discovered 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb.

So ask yourself what you have done well. It will help you focus on the good things and define your own purpose in life. And that’s something you’ll never regret!

-Bercan Günel, Partner at NGL International
May 15th, 2019