If I Could Start Over, Here’s What I’d Do Differently

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When you talk to someone in his golden years, you’re likely to hear about things he would do more of, less of, or just better if he had the chance to do it all over again. I’m generally happy with life, so can’t complain that a tortuous route got me to this point. But if I could do it again with hindsight, the second time around I’d make sure to live by the following guidelines:

I’d be a cheerleader – not a policeman – for my kids. I’d hug them every time I see them and tell them I love them, I am proud of them and I miss them when we’re apart. And I’d never skip a day of telling and showing my wife how much I appreciate her.

I’d celebrate others’ good fortune more often; I’d recognize and thank those in my life every time they do something noteworthy.

I’d take the long view on reversals and disappointments, confident that most of them turn out to be great learning experiences. I’d make sure I like who I’m working with. More than that, I’d be certain I respect them and embrace their values. Most of all, I’d make sure I’m worthy of their respect. Finally, I’d get out of business with the “takers” sooner, and faster still with any who lack integrity.

I’d hire slowly and fire quickly – but gently. I’d hire more for brains, heart and judgment – and less for experience.

I’d put taking classes with great professors above picking the perfect major.

I’d leave any job where I couldn’t find happiness and meaning, always making sure I’m moving toward something I want rather than away from something I don’t.

I’d look for patterns. Few things are so unique and unusual that you can’t generalize from them.

I’d write down my goals and share them with significant others – but I’d put them down in pencil and not let anyone punish me for changing them.

I’d make sure to say good-bye to my parents when their time has come and give them the gift of knowing of my gratitude as they leave me behind.

I’d “re-pot” every decade, seeing life as a book with decade-long chapters, writing each one with its chapter end in mind.

I’d turn off the voice in my head that comes from others’ expectations. I’d re-write the “operating system” I inherited from my upbringing, my DNA and my experiences to date, replacing it line-by-line with self-talk I choose.

I’d write my eulogy – then do something about the gap between what I wish could be said and what could honestly be said.

Those items on this list that I’ve followed have brought me to a good place. Those that I’ve failed to do have set me further back on the trail than I might have been. Writing out what I’d do if I could start over helps me start where I am and move on from there. It’s the same for all of us. Starting from wherever we are, we really can begin anew and do better.

By Joel Peterson