View from the finish line: The way to a life with no regrets

James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

Laura Joffe Numeroff's “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” book series was a staple in our household when we had young children. The brightly illustrated ditties featuring impetuous animals and kids partaking in loops of related circumstances never failed to delight.

It's the best analogy I can use to explain how I came to today's blog topic.

Yesterday's excellent Daily Update item about the high rate of resident-on-resident abuse (OK, you call it “mistreatment” if you want) sparked a domino effect for me.

If you read one authoritative study about residents infringing on one another, you start to think about another. And then you start to think about the excellent research of Cornel Medical College Professor Karl Pillemer, Ph.D.

And then you start thinking about more fascinating work done by Pillemer, a "professor of human development” in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University.

And then, if you're me, you think back to a blog of his I put on my Facebook timeline that should have received waaaay more hits than it has.

The posting refers to a November 2015 blog he wrote about performing a decade of research for the “Legacy Project,” which included a “no regrets” section.

I've scrolled back to it so often, maybe it just seems like my colleagues and I have already written a lot about it. Even if we had, these rich insights bear repeating — for all of us, of all ages.

In brief, Pillemer asked 2,000 seniors about their “lessons for living.”

“I came away firmly believing that there is no better source for guidance on ‘regret avoidance,'” he explained.

“The view from the ‘finish line' of life is uniquely valuable when it comes to understanding and preventing regrets,” he added.

The five most important strategies to pursue to leave this earth with minimal regrets are:

1)   Choose a mate with extreme care

2)   Always be honest

3)   Travel more

4)   Worry less

If you want No. 5, well, you'll have to click on his blog yourself. It doesn't cost anything and you really owe it to yourself to do so.

Pillemer fills out all five points with shrewd observations from elders who ooze wisdom. Most of it is searingly simple after you realize what's been said. All of it indispensable.

The point is that many of your residents have figured out what we're all after: How to live a fulfilled life. They may or may not have done it themselves, but they now know. They bear listening to.

Pillemer gathers their collective wisdom in a playbook that should govern everyone in the game of life.

You can prevent years, or even decades, of a difficult life if you act with purpose, he points out. He also explains how honesty, especially at work, plots the roadmap to easier living.

Don't wind up regretting what you should have done more of (traveling) or less of (worrying).

And don't ever forget the fifth point.

Follow James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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