the same time some weeks ago, I had conversations with two older women.
Separately. The first said the saddest thing I've ever heard: "If I
had my life all over again, I would have never made the choices I did. I
made poor choices, and I'm suffering for it. I didn't study. I married too
young. I was too impulsive.
made the mistake of thinking my beauty would get me everywhere in life.
Even that faded. And here I am, middle-aged.
My children have left me and gone to live abroad. I have no
hobbies. I am depressed. I was too timid. I never took chances. And the ones I did backfired. I wish I had my life over
was one of the saddest things I've ever heard.
other said: "I'm ill and probably dying but I'm not afraid. I've done
everything I've ever wanted to. I love my husband and children but also
have a sense of an individual destiny.
I have travelled and worked and made wonderful friends.
am interested in everything from playing marbles to painting, music, art,
and flowers. I have enjoyed every sunset, every breath through which I
have inhaled jasmines, roses, frangipanis, freesias, lime and mango
leaves. I have absolutely no regrets. I've had a wonderful life.Ē
was one of the most wonderful things I've ever heard.
been thinking about the difference between these two women. What riddled
one with regrets and gave the other wings?
will say I'm attempting a false equation. Numerous socio-economic factors
are responsible for the direction of our lives. Psychiatrists will say
they need to analyse their childhood, their traumas. Psychics will say
it's written in tea leaves or in the lines in our palms.
I look closer, not from the expert, but from the naked eye, and find that
they came from similar socio-economic backgrounds, and in fact both of
them had traumatised child-hoods.
started off in life with an equal footing. So I did some amateur research.
First I cross-examined a group of people who bubble with life. They work
and play hard. They are successful, dynamic achievers, no matter what the
then to complainers, people whose lives always seemed filled with trouble
and anxiety, regrets and depression. I discovered that both groups wanted
the same out of life: financial security, love, comfort, friends.
also faced similar stresses such as bringing up children, bereavement and
financial worries. So what made them so different?
I found was that the group of depressed complainers, the ones who look
back on their lives with regret, tended to be passive. They sat still and
allowed the waves of life to wash over them. They didn't do anything to
get away from the debris that life might have heaped on them.
complained. Then they sat waiting for things to get better, waiting for
someone or some outside event to rescue them. They were lazy because they
expected happiness to come from outside, and were not willing to make the
effort to create their own happiness from within.
other group: the people who said they could die without any regrets were
something else altogether. They
understood that regardless of whether we started life in a hut or with a
silver spoon in our mouths, we're on our own.
decisions are never easy. We
make them every day. Should we get new drapes for our house or should we
go on a trip to a country we've never visited?
Should we go to a fete or should we put the extra money in the
education savings account for our child? Should we marry the first man who
asks us or should we get an education first?
simply, a decision is an intelligent gamble. You hope that if you spend
money now on education rather than a new car that it will pay off in the
successful people, the happier ones seemed to have managed themselves like
a company. They made long,
medium and short-term plans. They juggled work and pleasure. They juggled
love and stability. They juggled sense and excitement. They took charge.
They understood that no one gets anything for nothing.
That lotteries only happen to other people. They never expected
anything and so worked hard to make their lives a success. Taking charge of yourself, responsibility for yourself. That
then was the difference between the saddest woman and happiest woman I
brings me to my next point.
needs a fairy godmother or father. Somebody
to say, ďgo girl, well done man.Ē They donít always come in the guise of mothers and wise old
women and men, or your best friend. Sometimes
they are just people who give you a break: a contact to someone who might
be helpful, a letter of recommendation, a shot at something you think you
might be good at.
people can make or break young lives.
Almost every successful person I know has been the recipient of
this generosity, not of finance necessarily, but of spirit.
In this competitive world where everyone is always watching their
backs, we hoard our successes jealously, believing that the more we share
the less for us. In fact, the
opposite is true.
have always found that the most generous people tend to be the most
successful. What passive
people donít realise is that the act of remaining passive is hard work.
You have to depend on other people to carry you through life.
You have to ride on other peopleís successes.
You have to duck behind your desk when a supervisor walks in.
And because you donít lead active, full lives, you have a lot of
time for regrets, for recriminations, for envy and depression.
may be amateur but itís what Iíve consistently found from these two
groups. And to the saddest
woman Iíve met and the second group in general, Iíll say: itís never
too late to start taking charge of your life and stop blaming other people
for your unhappiness.
if you are successful, help someone up the ladder, encourage the young
person you might have been 20-30 years ago.
And see how it comes back and how many times over.