One of my favorite pictures circulating around the internet shows a brilliant tattoo that says, “No Regerts!” It’s now a frequent joke between my wife and me when it’s time to make a decision and move forward. “#NoRegerts!” For me personally, it has become a great reminder to try to move past those three haunting words that plague our lives – shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Without question, the most influential book I’ve read this year is Four Thousand Weeks, Time Management for Mortals, by Oliver Burkeman. As a reformed time-management guru with a hyper-efficient system for getting it all done, Mr Burkeman describes his transition to a more thoughtful and deliberate approach to using his time. He takes a philosophical look at our relationship with time and how we approach decisions. If we live to the average age of about eighty, then we have approximately 4000 weeks to make the most out of our short time on the earth. I’m over half way there – which is quite a sobering thought.

His first key to better living is to embrace the fact that we are finite individuals, making finite decisions, with finite time on earth. Often how we use our time comes from a desire to maintain limitless options and accomplish everything. We want to get it ALL done! We see everything our friends are doing on social media. Our bucket list is constantly growing and we fear what we might be missing out on. But the author points out that it isn’t until we embrace our limited decisions that we can finally understand the Joy of Missing Out. 

What?? I know all about FOMO, but I’d never heard of JOMO! When we spend time thinking about what we should have done, could have been, or what would have happened, we lose our ability to be present and live in the moment. We lose out on the opportunity to make the best out of the situation we’re in now, because our focus is elsewhere. Living in the present demands our attention.

One of my favorite concepts was his discussion on our need to settle. This seems to go against common thought because we should always strive for the best. But you can’t fully commit/enjoy something until you settle for it – your spouse, your career, your home. I think all of us wonder how our lives would be different had we made “better” choices. Maybe in marriage we wonder if life would have been more fulfilling had we just waited for someone a little better? Maybe choosing a different major or specialty could have brought fulfillment and wealth? But this is the secret – as long as those thoughts exist, you’ll never be able to find out if the person you “settled” for could be the perfect partner or the career you chose is your optimal path. Until you commit, you’ll never know. 

Mr Burkeman teaches that the word decide comes from the same root as the words suicide and homicide – to cut off. When we make a decision, we cut off all the other choices we could have made, and the almost infinite number of choices downstream. No wonder we are prone to frequent second-guessing! Find joy and satisfaction in life by making a commitment to living the life you have, rather than the one you could be living. Just that change will give you the power to live the life you actually want.

Try to think about where in life you might be living with regrets or second-thoughts. How would it feel to live without them? Maybe you should get a tattoo to remind yourself that there’s a better way…. 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Nate

  • Emily Simmons
    1 year ago
    Added to my list for next year!
    • Nate
      1 year ago
      You won't regret it Em. Money back guarantee
  • Stuart Matheson
    2 years ago
    This reminds me of something Suzy always wants me to try: blooming where I’m planted. But am I a cactus, a rose bush, or on a good day maybe a calla lily? It also made me think of The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After Midlife, a book by Jonathan Rauch, which gives me some hope that getting JOMO to triumph over FOMO isn’t a matter of conquering human nature, but instead just a matter of maturing. I’m just hoping that for me 4,000 weeks will be enough to finally stop being so childish. Sounds like a great book. I’ll put it on my bucket list and slate it for week 2,754, but after reading Nate’s thoughts, I kinda wonder whether I even really need to!
    • Nate
      2 years ago
      Stu I think you are blooming just fine where you are. In fact after we last saw you Hill couldn't stop talking about how great your perspective and focus are. I look forward to hearing about week 2754!!
  • Nic Ence
    2 years ago
    Like Chris said, I’ve found a lot of value in stoicism, including the importance of action, living in the present, and enjoying everything that comes, which derive from frequent reminders of the finitude of this life. Oliver Burkeman did a series on Sam Harris’ podcast Waking Up, which I imagine steals heavily from the book. Love the blog and the thoughts.
    • Nate
      2 years ago
      I think I heard about this book from Sam Harris. If Sam Harris gives an endorsement then I listen!
  • Chris Evans
    2 years ago
    Burkeman thoughts are very similar to the stoic creeds of "Amor Fati" (Love your fate) and "Memento Mori" (Remember one day you will die) which is basically learn to love the cards life has dealt you.
    • Nate
      2 years ago
      Hey Chris, thanks for your comment. I have dabbled in the stoic philosophy by reading and listening to Ryan Holiday. I do love his modern day approach and he has addressed the concept of "Amor Fati." One thing I have come to realize is that much of philosophical thought repackages and slightly alters what someone else has said. Sometimes a slightly different approach is just enough to finally drive home a principal that changes someones life for good. Burkeman's thoughts did that for me.