From Regret to Gratitude: Embracing Happiness in the Present

I was visiting a friend last week who had decided not to celebrate her birthday because she felt she hadn’t hit her life goals so there was nothing to celebrate. That made me sad. Being a coach, I instinctively wanted to give her a good talking to but after years of experience, I knew unsolicited advice is a waste of my breath. So I decided to play a game of gratitude with her.


I asked her to list the things she was grateful for but, because she was in a funk about her birthday, she was struggling to come up with anything so I decided to start her off.


How about:


You have got a beautiful teenage daughter who is clever and popular with her friends and is thriving? (Yep, she had taken that completely for granted.)


You have a roof over your head, your fridge is full of things you like to eat including treats, and you have friends like me popping round to see you just for a chat? (I had definitely been taken for granted, she had forgotten I had other options and priorities in my life and had chosen her.)


You are in good health.


As opposed to:


Your daughter has health and body image issues, she has zero social life and her teachers are concerned about her performance at school? (I promised you, if that was happening, she would be fixated on that to the exclusion of or else.)


You have nowhere to stay, you have cash flow issues and you have no one you can trust? (How desperate will that be?)


You have just had major surgery and there is no one to look after you? (Even more desperate.)


By this time, she had got my drift and started adding things to the list herself.


The problem with gratitude is that people think they have to be earning millions and be on a yacht before they can allow themselves to be happy. The emphasis here is ‘allow’. You have the freedom to choose your state of mind at any time, regardless of the circumstances. Granted it is easier to choose to be happy when you are ticking the boxes that you have chosen, to show that you have arrived. A lot of those boxes are not even what you want, they are what you think will make you happy and it is only when you get them and realise that they don’t really make you happy that you understand the fallacy.


Why wait? Do not waste another birthday beating yourself up for all the things you haven’t achieved. At any time, you can choose what you want to focus on to determine your emotional state. Choose the good things, there are plenty of them. Do not wait until you are 60 years of age to look at your photos in your thirties and forties with regret thinking if only you knew how good you had it then.


Regardless of your circumstances, no matter how dire they are, maybe:

  • You hate your job.
  • Your marriage is breaking down.
  • The kids can’t cope with school.
  • Your body is sabotaging you on a daily basis. 
  • Your self-confidence has left the building.
  • You think everyone has got it all figured out and you are just going backwards.


Remember if you are still alive, there is hope, and things can turn on a dime. You owe it to yourself to find what is good in your life and to celebrate the heck out of it until the next good thing comes along because, believe me, life ebbs and flows so the good things will come.


Life is all about perspective and everyone needs someone who can help them change their perspective and start fighting for themselves. If you don’t have that person, start looking now. That person could be a parent, a friend, a sibling, or a coach.


Your magnificent life awaits!