In this article I illustrate simple principles that can bring focus and peace to your life: to identify the ultimate goal of your life, and live in a way that you ascertain reaching of that goal.
I don’t need to know who you are, what you do or what you want.
I know what your goal in life is.
In fact, we all have a single goal. A big common vision of what we need to do in life.
It is to live a life that you don’t regret.
Oh yes, I realize that it sounds like a big cliché. Well, let me rephrase it this way.
It is to be at peace with how you lived your life, at the moment of your death.
Now, let’s consider this for a moment.
Obviously, it doesn’t say “become a millionaire” or “raise a good family” or even “enjoy life,” although some of those may help you achieve the ultimate goal above.
But it really helps you to consider those other, more arbitrary goals, once you realize that above is the ultimate goal, the actual end you have to keep in mind.
Because it really doesn’t matter what you achieve in your life, if you’re on your death bed wishing you spent your life differently from how you have. It’s still possible to reconcile and come to peace then, but considering that we don’t know when that end is going to come (and it may come suddenly, without a warning) that is not a chance any of us should take.
So, how do we go about living a life that we don’t regret? There is a simple answer.
Live a value-centered life.
This is really the only requirement, when it comes to living a life that you don’t regret. Franklin Covey talks about principle-centered approach as the only way to achieve personal effectiveness. I recognize that this is also the only way to have a life that you feel satisfied with, at the end.
Principle-centered approach requires that you identify and define your values, and make decisions according to them. Many of us have our centers elsewhere — be it money, family/parent, spouse, friends, social status, religion, and so on. When our center lies somewhere other than our core values, we make decisions and do things that conflict with them. This creates a state of conflict — antithesis to peace. When we are on our deathbed, when all the other centers lose their meaning — you will inevitably come to realize that your life was not consistent with your values, and this creates the sense of regret, the wish to do otherwise.
You don’t have to think too hard about it, though living a value-centered life takes tremendous amount of courage and discipline/control over what you make yourself do. For this approach boils down to this:
You need to make all your decisions in a way that you feel proud of.
In the other words, if you lived your life in a value-centered way, you will have absolutely no need to keep any secrets. You feel proud of, or you approve of, every decision you make, so there is no need to hide. (Obviously, that doesn’t mean you need to go broadcasting your most personal matters.)
Now, while making all decisions is the ideal, it is unreasonable to expect us to achieve perfection. We all make mistakes, give in to temptations, or misjudge our directions.
This, we need to learn to forgive. While we ought to set our ideals high, there is no need to berate ourselves when we fall short — it only expands our conflicts. Most decisions and mistakes are reversible. All actions are forgivable.
If you make enough decisions consistently with your values, and learn how to amend and forgive those where you failed, then you will achieve a sense of peace in your life that is unshakable.
If you’re not living your life this way, you need to immediately correct your course. Because there is no reason not to live in peace. It’s possible to make decisions that are consistent with your values under any and all circumstances. The only thing that can hold you back is yourself, or better put, your fears.
When your center is somewhere other than your own personal principles, you naturally are bending or compromising your values to accommodate, or not to upset, that center. This fear can drive us to make all kinds of decisions that we regret or at the very least, we don’t feel proud of. As I said above, to transition to a principle-centered approach from elsewhere can take tremendous amount of courage and self-discipline. In the other words, you need to have the mental capacity to recognize your values and decisions that align to them, and make yourself to actually execute your decision in the face of the perceived “threat” that other centers pose to you, since you’re not really catering to their needs.
Do not fear the worldly consequence of such actions. Though it is understandable for any of us to have such fears, that should not drive our decisions and keep us from achieving inner peace in our lives.
Because failing to do so has a far graver consequence.
It is a somewhat lofty goal to make all decisions in a way that you can feel proud of. But the benefit, the inner peace, that comes from it, is truly transformational. This makes you somewhat oblivious to external influences — no matter what anyone says or does, you feel secure and at peace with yourself.
This is a state that I myself only experience on a-moment-here-or-there basis, but it is such a bliss. I’m still in the process of shedding myself of old habits and scripts that make me fear other centers in my life, but having realized this and experienced this state, there is no doubt in my mind what I need to do in my life. My progress hasn’t been exactly fast but it is definitely recognizable.
One additional pointer I should mention is on goal setting. If it is in your values to be productive or do certain things while you’re alive, by all means, put them on your to-do list — and do them sooner than later — but be careful not to make it some kind of mandatory requirements before you die.
Goal-setting is another whole big topic, so I won’t go into details here, but while goals are important and often necessary for us to pursue our vision of well-lived life, my experience has been that they can become an all-consuming burden that actually feed the inner conflict instead of peace. This happens when you put too much value on accomplishing and not enough on process.
Goals are nothing but milestones along your path. You get there, and you leave them behind, to move on toward the next milestone. Reaching as many milestones as possible or doing so in the most efficient manners misses the point. Life is a journey spent on the way to reaching our milestones. In the other words we spend most of the time on the path to the destination, much more so at the destination. So be sure to pick goals which enable you to enjoy the process of getting there.
For example, while OurBestVersion is my blog business, I don’t do it solely to achieve the goal of making it a profitable business. That’s really not the main point at all — I am doing it because I enjoy thinking and writing on these topics so much. And since I do it anyway, I thought it additionally challenging, engaging and fun to do it in a way it becomes a sustainable activity — one that is a viable business. In the other words, if I died in 3 months and never saw this blog become a profitable business, I can still die in peace — because I was on my way to my goal, and I lived the process of getting there that is consistent with my values.
So do set your goals, but don’t focus on the destination, but on the path. Or another way to look at is to identify destinations based on how fun or fulfilling the route is to you. If you approach it that way, you can enjoy the paths you take before and after reaching the destination. Accomplishing your goal is a nice added bonus, but your life’s success does not depend on it.
To summarize, your inner sense of peace and satisfaction with your life does not rest on any external factors, events, or even your accomplishments. You have the power, right now, wherever you are, to start living a life that accomplishes the ultimate goal of living a life you do not regret. We are all on our path to our final destination — the end of life, at least in this particular world/dimension/form of existence. Recognizing this big picture will help align your life, so that you start experiencing that peace and satisfaction all the time, all along the path.
This is simply the best way to live. Start now.