This week I caught up with a couple of former colleagues over dinner. We fondly reminisced about the “good old days” when we used to be cubicle buddies. But as we talked about all the fun lunches and work trips we used to enjoy, something struck me. Back then, they didn’t feel like the “good old days” at all. I remember us constantly complaining of stress, frustration, and dissatisfaction at work.
So which sentiment is correct: Were those days good or not? Do we see the past with rose-colored glasses? Or were we living some of our best days then and just didn’t know it?
In all honesty, I think it’s the latter. And that got me thinking about the other things I wish I had allowed myself to enjoy more over the years. I bet I’m not the only one. Here’s what I believe we could all benefit from doing a little differently when given the opportunity.
Embrace the single life.
After I separated from my first husband, I was on a dating mission. I went out every weekend with my single girlfriends on the hunt for potential love interests. And I landed my next boyfriend (now my second husband) just nine months later. Thankful as I am for finding him, I wish I had allowed myself to enjoy single life more instead of worrying about where my next long-term relationship was coming from.
How to do it better: If I were in that position again, I would allow my anxiety to be replaced with appreciation. So he or she hasn’t texted you back? Breathe. Either they will and you are overreacting (hey, it’s only been one day!), or they won’t because they aren’t that into you. That’s OK. Better to know sooner. There are plenty more where he or she came from.
Maybe you haven’t been on a date in a month. Remember: Dating can come in waves. That’s OK too. If you’re ready (no pressure!), try harder next month. Think: What can I do to get out there more?
Learn to love your body.
My friend Danielle and I were looking at old photos of ourselves recently when she gasped, “Oh my God, I looked like that in my 20s? I can’t believe I thought I was fat!” Funny, isn’t it? As I looked at photos of myself I also thought, Why was I so self-critical? I was cute!
How to do it better: I remember those harsh criticisms when looking in the mirror today and force myself to let current criticisms go. If not, I know I’ll regret not appreciating the woman I am right now. I’ve decided to like what I’ve got.
Imagine if we obsessed over all of the things we love about ourselves.
I put it on Instagram recently, and I mean it: Imagine if we obsessed over all of the things we love about ourselves. Pick one thing you love about yourself every morning and state it aloud before the mirror. Say: “Awesome hair day!” or “My booty’s lookin’ fine. Hell yeah for jeans season!” Do it. Seriously. Notice the immediate shift in how you feel and enjoy it.
Get comfy with change and uncertainty.
After leaving a great job in Sydney, Australia, I moved to New York at age 25 with no professional network or promising career prospects. It took me three months to get hired after a whole lotta hustle. And those three months were torture! I was constantly worried about money and concerned I would never be employed again.
During that time, I took yoga every day to give me a reason to leave my apartment and so I could make friends in a new city. Ironically, even daily vinyasa classes couldn’t help me de-stress. I was impatient during the meditations. All I could think about was checking my phone after class for job interview updates. Looking back, I regret not milking every minute and truly exhaling. I actually daydream about having an opportunity like that again.
How to do it better: I hear this a lot from people who are laid off: They worry about never finding work instead of relaxing just a little bit and enjoying the gap between their last job and the next.
Focus on planning over worrying. Take a couple of days to center yourself instead of immediately emailing your resume around town like a maniac. Use your nervous energy to propel you into constructive online research and some in-person networking. Once you’re doing what you can to get hired (and let’s be honest, job seeking rarely consumes eight or nine hours per day), make healthy habits and pleasures a priority.
It’s rare to have a solid chunk of time to exercise or get the sleep your body needs. You’ll be happy you took the time once that 7 a.m. alarm goes off on the first Monday of your new gig.
Be cool with beginnings.
Learning a new language. Entering a new career. Moving to a new city. Whenever I’ve had to do new things in my life, I’ve been in such a hurry to master them, I’ve rarely enjoyed the process of arriving there. I’d be easily frustrated with language mistakes, all too eager to settle into a new company before enjoying my job, or desperate to familiarize myself with a new city versus just enjoying the newness of it all.
How to do it better: Be OK with not being an expert right off the bat—nix those crazy expectations you have of yourself! Being new at something does not make you inadequate. It makes you humble. It forces you to feel awake and alert—like an enthusiastic beginner again.
Ironically, when we have confidence that the relationship will come, that our body is enough, that the job will show up, and that we will master what we need to, that sense of ease speeds up the results we’re hoping for. Now allow yourself to enjoy the good old days while you’re still in them.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!