The U.S. celebrates its birthday again. The Northern Hemisphere enters the lazy, dog days of summer. It’s so easy to sit back and watch the seasons come and go, attend the same fireworks and the BBQs, and before you know it, another year has passed. We go through the motions of seasonal change without having tried that thing we’ve been talking about for ever, or said the thing we’ve been burying inside for three weeks. We have another year of “shoulda, coulda, woulda.” While the YOLO term may be so 2000, the idea that you only live this life once is, in fact, true. This is not to say that we should do things recklessly with disregard for anyone else, including yourself (that bathroom selfie? YOLO! NO…no…NOT YOLO). It is about taking advantage of the life we have been given. Being present so that we be the protagonist rather than the self-declared victim, observing our half-lives pass us by. Some of us even go through the motions or believing decisions are made for us (reality check: that is your decision to let others decided for you). It can be different. Imagine a life without regret. Imagine getting to however old you’ll get and be able to reflect upon the successes and failures with compassion and gratitude, rather than regret.

Own it

Prince Ea has a beautiful, powerful piece about finding that idea born within you, that power within you, and unleashing it. Owning your now, he says. Stop pretending that you’re not special enough to have something to offer. Stop delaying what your insides have been screaming for you to do for so long: take action.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Regret has no place for those who live.

  1. Be kind to yourself

We beat ourselves up for things we think we should be doing or should have done. The more we ruminate, the more we give life to things that have passed, and the more power those things have to hold us hostage from moving on. We aren’t perfect; forgive and ask for forgiveness.¬†Practice a little bit of compassion for yourself. As easy as it is for us to remind a dear friend to “let it go,” and that “it’s not your fault,” say that to yourself – and mean it.

  1. Speak up

Sometimes relationships take a turn in a direction that is less than ideal. There may have been things we wish we would have said, maybe an apology or a declaration of our needs. Whatever it might be, there is no use in getting angry with someone or longing for a “do-over.” Say what is in your heart – say it with kindness, compassion, and understanding, but say it.

  1. Listen

Quiet yourself – take a full weekend in silence, sans electronics. Listen to yourself and for those characters and interests and talents hidden away. Maybe it is your artist child or your secret soccer goalie. Whatever those things were that you once were before expectations and formal education and well-meaning parents and society told you you were something else. Dig up those wild ideas and alter egos that have been waiting for you to let them out.

4. Try it

Living a full life doesn’t mean you have to abandon all common sense and reality. You wanted to be a jazz singer and find yourself an accountant with three kids and a mortgage? You might not want to quit your day job to pursue jazz. (might…if circumstances change, perhaps you might….) But you can still try things out. Sign up for jazz singing lessons. Trade lessons from a teacher in exchange for doing their taxes. Introduce jazz to your children and teach them how the notes flow. Join a jazz meet up or a group. Find a few jazz-y friends and start a Sunday brunch jazz quartet. Who knows where that might take you. You might not (or might) become Ella Fitzgerald, but you certainly won’t look back and wish you had just tried out what you always wanted to do.

  1. Laugh

Life is lived when we can laugh at ourselves. Terrible, horrific things happen. We do stupid, sometimes awful things ourselves. As hard as it is sometimes, if we can find the absurdity in things, we can release some of that anger and hate we have for others or for ourselves. Laughter can ease our anxiety and let us look at life as the quizzical, nonsensical, and amazing gift that it is.