As 2015 is about to come to a close, I can honestly say that it’s been a tough year for my family. But I’m reminded as well of something Alexander Graham Bell is noted to have said. “When one door closes another door opens,” he said. “But we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
In case his meaning escapes you, Bell was referring to the typical tendency people have to miss life’s future opportunities because we’re far too busy looking over our shoulder at what has already passed. We can’t undo what’s already done, but each and every one of us can make a better future for ourselves if we recognize opportunity and act on it.
It’s somewhat ironic that people tend to be scared of the future when it’s the past that leaves us regretful and melancholy. Looking ahead for the better of life does, however, require some reflection on mistakes of the past and determination not to repeat them.
Moving forward often means that you have to look at past situations from a more objective point of view. Try to recognize dysfunctional relationship styles and avoid them in the future, work on improving career and home life, shake off the negative dead wood of those people whose drama drains positive energy from your life. I’m no expert – my education is from the college of learning from my own mistakes. But here are a few tips I can offer to help you make 2016 a better year.
Health: Have you had a checkup lately? Do you follow your doctor’s instructions for exercise, diet and proper use of medication? Are you sleeping enough and making the most of your time or just vegetating in front of the TV? No matter what your health situation you can always find a way to improve it.
Money: We all stress about money, whether you have too little or too much (is that even possible?). But whatever your situation, remember that money isn’t what’s important, but the security that it brings.
Prioritize your spending and make sure the basics are met before laying down cash for luxury items and even holiday gifts for others. Anyone who expects you to buy a gift for them before you’ve paid the electric bill is not someone you want to keep around you anyway.
Whatever you do, don’t argue with your spouse about money. Talk about your finances regularly so everyone is on the same page. Also, if you’re in financial trouble, seek out help from a financial planner or attorney who can assist you in breaking a debt cycle.
Time: It could be that time is one of those things that just seems to slip away. I could swear that just yesterday I was 20 years old. Now, I look in the mirror and there’s some old guy wearing my pajamas. Make time for the things that matter: family, friends, appreciating all you work for every day.
Is it hard to power down sometimes? Of course it is. But take some time every week to go somewhere free and fun with your family. Explore a museum, take a family trip to the library (yes, they still have those), or just play a board game – no smart phones or computers. Time isn’t a commodity and it can’t be bartered or traded. It passes, whether you notice it or not so make it count.
Self-improvement: When reflecting on the past for inspiration (not regret), think of how you could have handled various situations differently. Life should be a constant exercise in personal improvement and increasing your self-awareness and gaining a full understanding of how you affect those around you. Take the time to make yourself a better person, not just for you but your friends and family.
No changes in life happen without action. You can pray, hope, dream, whatever, but if you want things to change, you have to act. Instead of carrying around regret, use the failures of the past to achieve success in the future.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at deerinheadlines.com.