I ran across this unique article linked below which of course inspired comment. So many people in life are drowning in misery and self-doubt which is a real tragedy because it’s all avoidable. It’s one thing to have little regrets in life which start when we are all very young, but if not dealt with properly they become monstrosities as we age, and it really destroys people. The burden of regret is a tremendous liability on most people as this little article explores in Best Life. Things get even more complicated philosophically for people as we instruct them that a sense of “self” is selfish and that they should always put others before themselves 100% of the time. Such a position in life is not conducive to a successful existence, so for the sake of inspiring people to live just a little bit better not just in the short-term, but the long-term as well, perhaps a few encouraging words are appropriate.
From my earliest memory I have always had a strong sense of self and I’ve protected that concept vigorously for over 50 years now. I’m not a believer in reincarnation, but my inner compass has always pointed toward the need to protect my individuality. For that reason, I have never struggled with peer pressure attempting to take me away from my personal goals which later led to regret. I can honestly say that at age 50 that I have no regrets in life. Not a single one. That is true of both good and bad memories. Of course, not everything is always rosy, but when I’ve needed to I’ve certainly defended my sense of self with arguments and fist fights—and even though some people did get very hurt, for me those events didn’t lead to regrets because I was defending my sense of self. I think a lot of people go wrong in their lives because they feel like they should say this or that when other people impose themselves, yet the target of those negative emotions never say anything, they just internalize the emotions leaving them to reflect later in life back to a regret, which then destroys them in thousands of negative ways always from the inside out. Speaking personally, when I felt I needed to do something to defend my sense of self, I have always done it, sometimes recklessly and against the advice of everyone. At the time such things seemed crazy, but it has led me to a life without any regrets and that is a huge benefit to me now.
We are all taught that there is something bigger than ourselves, which is really stupid. The person that people fall in love with and want to be near and to learn from is what we are, not what we sacrifice to others. If you are the type of person who is always giving of yourself and your time you should not be surprised that the people you attract in your life are all people drowning from their bad decisions in life, and that they migrate to you to take whatever you can give them. So unhealthy relationships persist under such conditions. On the other hand, you can’t be psycho about your sense of self either going to the extreme opposite, never letting anyone near you because you feel you are so weak that you can’t let people tow in your wake. I find that the definition that we all have for “love” is wrong. Love isn’t about “falling” for other people, a spouse, a child, or a friend, it’s about taking the substance of one’s existence and allowing people to share in the fruits born from the pronoun “I.” If a person does not have a strong sense of self, than what is there for anybody to “love” about you.
What people love is not what you can give them, but what they can “love” about you—that strong sense of self. For instance, children might love their father but if the guy is just sitting around on the porch of his house thinking about all the things he regrets about his life, the times he should have made more money, or the times he stepped away from a fight with a neighbor over grass clippings, or even gave up his seat in the employee cafeteria to avoid some kind of conflict, there isn’t much for the children to love about such a person except for the sacrifice they provided to their own existence. Compare that to the father who builds a model train set in his basement which the grand kids play with whenever they come over. The material representation of the train set is a reflection of the sense of self of the grandfather which provides some hook for which others in his life can love about him, and the relationship is much more beneficial for everyone. The self-interest of the father to pursue a train set is much more value to a family than a regretful shell of a man rocking in a chair at the end of his life handing out twenty-dollar bills to his children who appreciate the gesture but are craving a sense of love for their father.
I had a tremendously bad day the other day at the start of it and as I am known to do on such days things got a little hairy. One of my daughters was coming over for dinner that night and as the sun was starting to set they asked me what I wanted for dinner and were putting their toes into the water to check my mood. By the time we had the conversation I had solved many of my problems and my response to them was that I had taken a lot of curvy roads through the mountains that day and turned them straight through a desert terrain. Upon further inquiry they asked for details so I sent them by text this video of Luciano Pavarotti singing the famous opera of Nessun Dorma. It is a favorite of mine not because it has inspired me to great things, but because it often matches my mood and approach to things in my life. When I hear Pavarotti sing this opera it reflects my sense of self for which provides many people in my life with something to love about me. I had two choices in such an interaction, I could say that “oh, my day was so bad, I just don’t know what to do” which for me would be uncharacteristic, because I always know what to do. Or I could send them an uplifting message for which they could invest their love—which they could trust because they understand my need to turn curvy roads into nice straight roads and solve problems—no, to “conquer” problems.
It is far better to live a life with bumps and bruises and occasional broken legs than to learn to live with regrets. Similarly, on that bad day I described I gave a little class to some of my employees who needed to hear It about the road less traveled which I’ll share here for context. Do not expect in life to take the safe paved roads that are provided for you and expect to find rare treasures just laying along the side of them. All you ever find is pocket change that people who came before you accidentally drop. The way to really find treasures in life is off those paved roads in the places in the forest where no trail exists. That is where snakes will bite you, thorn bushes puncture your skin and you can even break a leg stepping on the uneven surfaces. But it is also there where treasures are more likely to be found and they don’t all come from actual gold, but in other valuable forms that are otherwise left unmolested due to the difficulty in retrieving them. Yes the road is safe, but the sense of self that we have for which people fall in love doesn’t like safety—because it leads to regret. Not asking that girl for a date, or not taking the time to read that book, or driving that car, or taking that vacation to Hawaii because it’s too expensive leads to a life filled with regret. Life can be difficult and it often can be punishing just to breathe in it, but for me I expect to end each of my days with that feeling you get from Pavarotti singing Nessum Dorma “I will win.” Win what and why, that is defined by our sense of self, and you must have that to know what winning means and how being a winner brings more love to the people in your life who care about you than just being a loser that stays on the safe roads of life and does what everyone tells you to do, leading to an obvious life of misery and regret that isn’t good for anybody.
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