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Family Talk: Live life according to priorities, not with regrets

Although you can't change the past, you can start living your life now with family as your priority. [Thinkstock]
Although you can't change the past, you can start living your life now with family as your priority. [Thinkstock]

As I look back on my 60-plus years, there are things I would have done differently, but I never feel regret over making family a priority. 

Years ago, during my first job interview with a law firm, I was asked about my priorities. “For me, my relationship with God is first, my family is second and my job is third. That doesn’t mean I won’t do you a good job. I’ll work hard and strive for excellence, but my job won’t be my highest priority.” 

I thought my interview might end right then. But to my surprise, and relief, the interviewer said, “You know, I think you’ll find those priorities will work in this firm.”

I read recently a lot of baby boomers are experiencing regret as they look back on their lives. Frequently, people looking back on their lives feel failure about their families. They wish they could rewind and remake decisions. Despondency, despair and disappointment sometimes mark these souls.

To those with regrets, I say this: You cannot remake the past, but you can begin today to make family a priority. Live from here. Forgive yourself, and seek forgiveness from others. But do not continue to beat yourself up about things you cannot now change.

And what about younger people who are still making decisions about life’s priorities? How should you live today so you avoid retrospective regrets? Here are some guidelines for those who want to look back contentedly at their lives:

• Make family a priority. Most people, looking back on their lives, regret not spending more time with family. Don’t make compromises that undermine your family commitments. Say “yes” to family by saying “no” to work obsession, over involvement in activities that take you away from family, extramarital affairs and self-absorption. You’ve heard the adage, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Put your life decisions where you say your priorities are.

• Don’t make important decisions based on mere emotions. Emotions are an important gift from God, but we cannot rely on them. We might not “feel” like staying in a marriage. We might not “feel” like being a responsible parent. Emotions often focus on the superficial short term rather than the more important long term. Making emotion-based decisions, particularly in family matters, leads to a higher likelihood of regrets later.

• “Have fun wherever you go!” my granddad often said. It’s great advice. Not everything we do is enjoyable, but you can usually find or make a little fun inside every gathering, every project, every assignment. If you make it your goal to infect people with smiles and laughter, you’ll increase your odds of being content when you look in the rearview mirror.

• “Leave it all out on the field.” We often hear this advice shouted by coaches to athletes, but it applies to living in general. Don’t hold back. Don’t play it safe. Take your best shot at being the greatest husband, dad, mother, wife, daughter or son you can be. You’ll never regret going all out for family.

Do your best to avoid retrospective regret. Live your life in line with your priorities.

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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