It’s 6 am and the birds are singing, the air is balmy and fragrant, but I’m not on some island paradise. It’s 6 am in my home town, and under the duvet, my dogs are breathing softly; this morning is the product of two years of hard work, and it’s going to pass unremarkably.
It’s going to pass without regret. I am finally, as they say, living my best life. Well, it’s far less exciting than I believed it would be. Today I will rise at 7, go to the gym, eat at 9, and start working at 10. And when I stop for the night I’ll have dinner with friends, eat and drink without regret, and then sleep without worries or troubles.
If you’re wondering how I managed this feat, you’re not alone. The truth is that it was a long and irregular road.
What “Living Your Best Life” Actually Means
The problem with the concept of ‘living your best life’ is the fact that it’s so very vague. Depending on who you ask they will either define it as being healthy, taking care of yourself and your body to ensure that you live a long life. Others will say it’s taking every chance that comes to you with a devil may care attitude.
Some people might even tell you that it’s a mix of both of these things, but of course, it’s not always that easy. Often what living at the edge of our capability requires is a disregarding for our sleep schedules, regular diet, and a willingness to push ourselves to the point of exhaustion.
And beyond all that is the fact that, often, when we choose a single path we end up regretting the chances we missed, or the quiet moments we never savoured. Which begs the question… how can we actually live our best lives.
The Power of Forgiveness
I found those doubts at the bottom of the deepest pit of my life so far, and as it turns out the answer was down there too: the key to living our best lives is to resist the urge to let regrets form a huge part of them. And in that endeavour forgiveness is key.
Forgiving others, yes, but forgiving ourselves too.
Regrets usually form out of the chances we didn’t take, but we do fuel them more by our refusal to forgive ourselves for not taking those chances, or for missing those important or special moments.
The tough part is learning how to forgive yourself.
Corrective Thinking and Mindfulness
The end of an eight-year relationship is what it took to shake me out of blaming myself for every lost chance and missed a moment. Well, the end of an eight-year relationship, mindfulness, and the power of corrective thinking.
It started with the mirror, and the assertion,
“I can do this.”
It progressed to,
“I am doing this.”
And then to,
“I am doing this.”
This progression was easy: you build your confidence by action. The hardest step was to change the thought from,
“I am doing this”
“I deserve this.”
Correcting your thinking from statement to positive affirmation is the first step away from being mired in regret towards being content, happy, and fulfilled. When you believe that you deserve what you choose, whether it be to take a chance or to spend the day in bed, regrets become less pressing, and eventually, they start to disappear.
What Living Your Best Life Actually Means
It’s mid-day, I am halfway through my working day. I started working at 9, I’ll finish at 5, and despite the consummate mundanity of this I am at peace. When things get loud inside my head, I draw in a deep breath and focus on being here, and staying in the now.
And then I remind myself that I deserve to be happy, and I deserve to make improvements to my life. And though it’s not always easy, it does get easier with time.
Living your best life means doing so with minimal regret, and forgiving yourself for those regrets that you do cultivate.
It means living in the here and now, correcting negative thoughts, being mindful of the balance between need and want. And more than anything else, it means following the spectre of the person you want to be more than the reflection of who you are expected to be.