Regret is a powerful motivator.
I’m not one to constantly analyze my life and wonder, “What regrets do I have?” And truth be told, I don’t have many.
But a question that has repeatedly come to mind the last few months is this…
Thirty years from now, what do I not want to have regret over?
To be more specific, what three or four things do I not want to have regret over? This helps frame the question a bit more. I’m sure there will be things I look back on in 30 years that will cause me to shrug my shoulders or wince slightly. But what are the three or four things that I could not bear to regret?
Or to state it positively, here are the four things I want most 30 years from now.
- Wholehearted friendship with God
- Thriving relationship with my wife
- Friendship with my kids
- Enough physical fitness to do the things I enjoy
While there could be one or two more things added to this list, truth be told, I would cut number four if it came down to it. If I only get one through three, these would be non-negotiable.
To be the person I was created to be, I need my whole heart. And that only comes through friendship with my heavenly Father. Which, directly impacts the way that I love my wife and children.
I could not bear disappointing the love of my life. Not to say that there won’t be trials in marriage. What I mean is, I could not bear to fail her emotionally. To fail to be her lover and closest friend. To be a friend that fights for the things that are near to her heart. To adventure with her and enjoy life together.
To be a father that invites his children to adventure and wholeness. To invest in their hopes, dreams, and desires. I want to see my kids flourish in life. My children will be kids once and adults the rest of their life. I want to enjoy decades of friendship with them as adults.
You should know I’m operating under the assumption that trade-offs are real.
Trade-offs are like newtons third law at work in our life. For everything that we say yes to, there is a trade-off affect that we are unaware of.
Everyone knows it’s impossible to be awesome at everything. You can’t be a concert pianist, world-class painter, inter-web developer, NBA player, amazing husband, read 40 books a year, be an awesome father, have tons of friends that you keep up with, balance a law career, have a thriving heart, and juggle your side-hustle writing project. You could do two, maybe three, of those well. And that’s pretty much it.
The point is, we (I), have a finite capacity. We can only do so much. This is trade-offs at work in our life. Social feeds present an insta-baked reality that our life can and should be awesome all the time. And that we should be able to do all the things.
If this is true, and there are things that I could not stand to have regret over in 30 years, then it leads me to this first troubling question.
Who am I not willing to disappoint?
Returning to the fact that we cannot escape the reality of trade-offs. Or to quote David Allen, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”
I’m not willing to disappoint myself. This starts with my need for connection with God. I’ve been given a new heart that is made for adventure and partnership with Him. To grow in friendship takes intentionality, like anything else, it will not happen haphazardly.
I’m not willing to disappoint my wife. She is the love of my life and deserves my best. Not to conceal my emotions, hide my desires, or suppress my passions, but to share them with her whole-heartedly. She gets me first.
I’m not willing to disappoint my kids. To be a distracted, overly busy, worn out father, that’s unable to be present. As much as it is in my power, I will fight to give them my best. My words, my affection, my strength, my protection.
If these things are to be true of me, it leads to another question.
Who am I willing to disappoint?
There will be no shortage of opportunities in my life, and since I now have clarity about whom I will not disappoint, I am left with a conundrum. Who will it be that I say no to, again and again?
If I am choosing to give my family my best, extended family gets second best. Friends come next, leaving new acquaintances and strangers pretty much the bottom of the barrel. As much as possible I will give myself to serve others, but there is a pecking order.
The trouble with this? I hate disappointing people! But do I hate it more than the regret I may feel if I trade away what I hold most dear? To be generally applauded by many but to have missed the mark with my family. No, I think not.
So I endeavor to have no regrets thirty years from now. At least, in these few things that I hold most dear.