Risk it or Regret it: Life Advice from a Century of Living

people-boatWhat would you do if you could do it over again?

Imagine answering that question after living nearly a century of life. What would you say? What did you do right, and what do you wish you could have a second chance at?

Last week at church, my pastor talked about a sermon given by well-known Christian speaker and professor Tony Campolo several years ago on a study of 50 people over the age of 95. They were asked one simple question: What would you do differently if you had the chance to live life over again? There were 3 answers that came up most frequently among the participants:

1. They would have reflected more. Specifically, they would have taken the time to “stop, think and consider with intensity” things they took for granted in their lives.  Of all the answers you might think this question would get, this one seems a little strange at first. But consider what it means in the grand scheme of life—to stop, be still and reflect on your life. To be truly conscious of all of the blessings all around you every single day. What would life be like if we all stopped frequently to simply reflect on what we’ve been given, to consider with intensity the wonderful things in our lives that we far too often take for granted? And then, what would we do differently, having spent a significant portion of our lives in reflection and appreciation of our blessings?

2. They would have risked more. It’s hard to achieve much in life without risk. Risk is what turns the employee into the entrepreneur, the Guy with Potential into the One who Made It. Risk scares us because it requires us to change. It asks us to leave our comfort zones, to step out onto the water on the probability that we’ll be able to walk. It asks us to put our reputations at stake for the sake of maybe doing something worthwhile. It’s not something we take lightly in the present. But in retrospect? According to the study, “They realized that a lot of things they may have deemed a success or failure weren’t so important in retrospect.” Could taking a risk make you look foolish? Maybe. Will people think less of you if you attempt something and it just goes wrong? Perhaps. Maybe that fear is holding you back from taking the dive, whatever that may be for you. If so, remember this—at 95, you won’t regret looking foolish in front of a few naysayers. You’ll regret never having taken the dive.

“I’m convinced that the only thing between you and your destiny is one small act of courage. One courageous choice may be the only thing between you and your dream becoming reality. And it may be as simple as placing a phone call, downloading an application, or sending an e-mail. But you’ve got to push over the first domino.” – Mark Batterson, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.

3. They would have done more things that would live on after they were gone. What are you doing that’s making a difference for eternity? What a crazy question. For some of you, that question might seem ridiculous. Maybe you’re young and just started your career. Or maybe you’re even still in school. Or perhaps you’re somewhere in the midst of life, and that question is terrifying to you. It’s been in the back of your mind for some time, but you haven’t approached it because you don’t feel like you’re in a position to answer it the way you want to. No matter where you are, no matter how off-guard this question catches you, there’s still time to answer it with confidence. You still have an opportunity to make an impact. Our days are numbered—we all know that. None of us knows how much time we have left. What we can control is what we do with our precious days on this Earth. What we can do is make sure that our legacy lives on, long after we’ve departed. What we can do is strive to somehow make every day that we have count toward the betterment of our world.

You have one life to live. In the blink of an eye, you’ll be 95, taking this survey. What will you say when they ask you the question: what would you have done differently?

Want to take be a part of something that will make a lasting difference in the world? All We Are is committed to bringing solar energy to 40 schools over the next 10 years—impacting the lives of 20,000 students. If you want to help us do that, please consider making a donation toward Solarize Uganda Now. And if you really want to dive in, consider joining us this summer for an All We Are internship. Email us at info@allweare.org and let us know what your skills and interests are, and why you’d be a good fit for AWA. 

– Chelsea Sherman, Director of Development

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