Have I lived my life all wrong?


When I was 16, I read Tolstoy’s short story, The Death of Ivan Ilych.


Ivan Ilych grew up in Russia. Like most young men of means, he went to the right school, married the right woman, got the right job, and moved up in the system. But along the way, he followed a traditional path that took him far from his initial idealistic hopes and dreams.


Following an accident that resulted in a chronic injury, he had several weeks to look back on his life. During this process, he came to the sober realization that he had lived his life all wrong. But with death nearly upon him, there was nothing he could do to change this dreadful reality.


This story had a major impact on my life. I often reflected back on it over the years. I had seen people like Ivan Ilych who had reached a particular point in their life when they suddenly woke up, assessed their life, and realized they were unhappy. In some cases, this evolves into what is often called a ‘midlife crisis.’


The reason behind each crisis differs from person to person. Some severely regret not achieving goals related to work, personal growth, artistic and creative accomplishments, or supporting their children. Others feel they could have done more to help others.


Most of us have either experienced this or known someone who has.


When I hit 40, I also experienced this kind of crisis when I came to realize that I was on a wrong path that wasn’t true to my values and doing work I didn’t want to be doing.


I eventually took a risk and took on a new role at the United Nations to focus on fighting human trafficking.


The good news is, that it’s never too late to make changes to make our lives better. We don’t have to feel regret, accept this feeling as inevitable and fail to change our lives.


But for us to make the necessary changes, we must shine a really bright light on ourselves. Not just any light – but one that truly reveals our present truth – our situation, our values, our actions, our behaviors, our hopes, our dreams, and our failures. 


In the best of circumstances, at the end of our lives, there should be few regrets and, in particular, we should feel that our life has had meaning and purpose. 


To ensure this happens, it’s important that we regularly take stock of our life by asking the questions, “Am I happy, am I doing what I want, am I living my life the way I want?”


The course of our lives is always in our hands. Despite the fact that many of us feel we don’t have choices – we do.


I leave you with this inspiring quote:


‘I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.’ Lucille Ball


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