What If?

By Carrie Pokrefke

Despite the fact that my degree and career are in finance, I am a psychology junkie. I love to learn and read things in the psychology world. This week, I stumbled upon an article on Psychology Today’s Facebook page titled, “Personal Growth: Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” by Dr. Jim Taylor (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201205/personal-growth-woulda-coulda-shoulda). The author talks about regret and taking advantages of opportunities. For me, it’s one of those articles that you get caught in and find yourself cheering with the author as you read through it. He had stumbled across a blog from a nurse who listed out the five most frequent regrets from her dying patients and talked about each of them.

Dr. Taylor goes on to talk about “embracing opportunities” and not spending “your living (and dying) days wondering what could have been.” The point in the article where, had I had them, I would’ve gotten my pom-poms out, was at the last paragraph. He says:

“At the end of any given day, the past year, when I retire, or on my death bed, I want to look back on my life and be able to say “I left it all out there.” We can only do that when we aren’t afraid of life. And the only way to not fear life is to believe that regret is the worst emotion you can feel.”

I love his line – “I left it all out there.” How awesome would it be to say that at the end?

It’s taken me a long time to get to a point in my life that I don’t fear life and prefer to embrace opportunities. Oddly, once I confronted my own mortality and realized that my time here on earth has a definitive end is when I fully adopted a passion to live life to the fullest. Death is inevitable. While I have always known this fact, I didn’t really accept it until the past couple of years. And, ever since then, I have tried to live my life, from the future, but looking backwards. Similar to the nurse’s patients, but with the fortune of having my life in front of me to live.

When confronted with opportunities or chances, I think about my future self and I don’t want her to wonder, “What if?” What if I had applied for that job? What if I had been honest and open with my feelings? What if I had signed up for that art class? What if I had taken that trip? What if I had tried out for that play? I figure she won’t regret doing all these things – she’d be more likely to regret not doing them.

Yes, this lifestyle choice might present me with disappointment and heartbreak, but I’d much rather deal with those emotions. I chose to put myself out there and take chances, with unknown outcomes. It can be scary at times, but it’s more fulfilling and exciting this way! I get to do all the fun things and take chances, knowing that my future self will be able to look back and not only say, “I left it all out there,” but also, “It’s been an adventure!”

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