Perspective always clears away the fog. When we look forward, the path seems uncertain and the future unpredictable. When we look back, all the dots seem to connect.
The key is to never be forced to look back and regret certain decisions -- and that means standing strong in the face of challenges, adversity, and stress. (In other words, staying mentally strong.)
Here are nine decisions that successful people refuse to make.
1. Choosing to give in to fear.
Being brave doesn't mean you aren't afraid -- in fact, the opposite is true. Courage without thought or meaning is simply recklessness. Brave people aren't fearless; they've simply found something that matters more to them than fear.
Say you're scared to start a business (something you can do in just a few hours). Find a reason to do that that means more: creating a better future for your family, wanting to make a real difference, or hoping for a more rewarding and fulfilling life.
Once you find a greater meaning, you also find courage. See fear not as something to shrink from but as something to overcome, because that's all it is.
2. Choosing the pain of regret over the pain of discipline.
The worst words you can say are "If only I had..."
Think of all the things you've wanted to do but never have. What did you do instead? If you're like me, you don't even remember. All that time is gone, and whatever I did instead wasn't even worth remembering.
Think about something you dreamed of doing five or 10 years ago but didn't work to do -- and think about how good you'd be today at that thing if you had. Think about all the time you wasted and can never get back.
Then, today, start pushing yourself to do what you hope to do, so, five or 10 years from now, you won't look back with regret.
Sure, the work is hard. Sure, the work is painful. But it's a lot less painful than thinking back on what will never be.
3. Choosing to not say "I will."
A boss once gave me what I thought was an impossible task. I said, "OK. I'll try."
He told me trying didn't matter -- as long as I didn't quit, I'd finish it. Trying didn't enter into it. Persistence was all that mattered.
Often we say "I'll try" because that gives us an out. Our ego isn't on the line. Our identity isn't on the line. After all, we're just "trying."
Once we say "I will," our perspective changes. What previously seemed insurmountable is no longer a matter of luck or chance but of time and effort and persistence.
When what you want to do really matters, don't say "I'll try." Say "I will," and then keep that promise to yourself.
4. Choosing to not take lots of small risks.
You may never create the perfect business plan, or find the perfect partners or the perfect market or the perfect location, but you can find the perfect time to start -- because that time is now.
Talent, experience, and connections are important, but put your all into enough new things, and some will work.
Plus, after you take enough chances, over time you'll grow more skilled, more experienced, and more connected. And that will mean that an even greater percentage of your efforts will succeed. Take enough shots, and learn from each experience, and in time you'll have all the skills, knowledge, and connections you need.
Ultimately, success is a numbers game; it's all about taking a shot, over and over and over again. The more shots you take, the more times you will succeed. So get the power of numbers on your side and take as many shots as you can.
There is no guarantee of success, but when you don't take any shots at all, you're guaranteed to always fail.
5. Choosing to not move.
Familiarity creates comfort. But comfort is often the enemy of improvement.
If you have a great opportunity and the only thing holding you back is the thought of moving, move. If you want to be closer to family or friends and the only thing holding you back is the thought of moving, move. If you want to be closer to people who think and feel and act like you, move.
You'll soon find cool new places to hang out. You'll soon develop new routines. You'll soon make new friends. When the fear of moving is the only thing holding you back, move. You'll meet cool new people, do cool new things, and gain a cool new perspective on your life.
Besides, Thomas Wolfe was wrong: If it doesn't work out, you can go home again.
6. Choosing to not let go.
Bitterness, resentment, and jealousy are like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. You are the only one who loses.
Life is too short to resent all the people who may have hurt you. Let hard feelings go.
Then spend the energy you save cherishing the people who love you.
7. Choosing to not say you're sorry.
We all make mistakes, so we all have things we need to apologize for: words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, to be there when we're needed.
Swallow your fear -- or pride -- and say you're sorry. Then you'll help the other person let go of her resentment or bitterness.
And then you both get to make the freshest of fresh starts, sooner instead of later -- or instead of never.
8. Choosing to not throw out your backup plans.
Backup plans can help you sleep easier at night.
Backup plans can also create an easy out when times get tough.
You will work a lot harder and a longer if your primary plan has to work because there is no other option. Total commitment -- without a safety net -- will spur you to work harder than you ever imagined possible.
Then, if somehow the worst does happen (although the "worst" is never as bad as you think), trust that you will find a way to rebound.
As long as you keep working hard and keep learning from your mistakes, you always will.
9. Choosing to be too proud.
Don't be too proud to admit you made a mistake. To have big dreams. To poke fun at yourself. To ask other people for help.
And to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go again.
Instead, take pride in the fact that no matter what might happen, you will always get up and go again.
That way, you never truly lose -- and your dreams can never die.