Live Without Regrets!
I am curious about a lot of things. Online gaming is not one of them. One day, late in the evening hours, while looking through some of the topics on TED Talks, my eyes caught a glimpse of a heading that had the word “Game” in it. This time I make an exception and decide to go along with it. When I clicked on the link, the complete heading read, “The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years”. Now, I was interested even more. Of course, I did not mind adding 10 extra years to my life. The presenter was Jane McGonigal. She is a very calm, relaxed online game designer.
Before we get to the answer of how you could add 10 years to your life, let’s examine our present situation. Life happens and all of us go through hard times. And when people come out of traumatic situations, they go through what doctors have named “Post-traumatic Stress”. However, scientists know now that some people who have had a traumatic event could go through a “Post-traumatic Growth”. These people use the traumatic event like a springboard to a better and happier life.
When people who go through a traumatic event they reflect on their past. Usually, they come out of the traumatic event and they say:
- My priorities have changed – I’m not afraid to do what make me happy.
- I feel closer to my friends and family.
- I understand myself better. I know who I really am now.
- I have a new sense of meaning and purpose.
- I’m better able to focus on my goals and dreams.
These are the same things that make us happy, strong and alive.
Coincidentally, these reflections are very similar to the top five reasons of the dying. Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a book called “The Top Five Regrets of The Dying”. These five regrets are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Both situations—traumatic and near death—bring out our true values. So, what do these have to live longer? It is really very simple. Do what matters to you and you live a happy, long life.
But how can we add the years without going through any traumatic situation? According to Jane, it is possible. In a nutshell, people can add 10 years by boosting four strengths that she calls “resilience”. These are:
- Physical Resilience – Whatever you do, do not stay still. Physical activity boosts and improves your health.
- Mental Resilience – Willpower is a mental discipline. It works like a muscle. Examples of improving your willpower are a simple as snapping your fingers 50 times without giving up or counting backwards from 100 by seven (100, 93, 86, etc.)
- Emotional Resilience – Researchers say that if people have three positive emotions for every one negative emotions, they will have a more positive attitude. Researchers call this the “3:1 Positive to Negative Ratio”.
- Social Resilience – You get strength from interacting with other people. Gratitude also boosts your social strength. Touch is even better. For example, if you simply shake hands for 6 seconds with someone, you can boost your resilience. When you shake hands for longer than six seconds, your body will release Oxytocin or the “trust hormone”.
In summary, people who use their four strengths—physical, mental, emotional, and social—live 10 years longer. So, if you are never sitting still for more than an hour, if you are tackling small mental challenges to boost your willpower, if you are regularly achieving the 3:1 Positive to Negative Ratio, and if you are reaching out to someone that you care about every single day, then you can boost all four strengths and live a longer life.
Just in case you have not experienced any life changing event, you could still get to the “Post-traumatic Growth”. Let’s do a very simple exercise. Close your eyes and, in your mind, build yourself a one sitter airplane. Take it high up and then crash it. Now that you have faked your death, you can start contemplating your life in retrospect.
I believe that adding years to your life depends on the priorities in your life. But, how do you know what are your priorities? Time is the best sign of your priorities. In short, wherever you spend your most time that is your priority in life. Jon Acuff, the author of “Start”, states , “Time is the only honest indication of what really matters to us. Intentions are ambitious liars.” To test to see what matters to you, he suggests to look back and check your calendar. See what you spent your time yesterday and then last week. If you spent 50-60 hours working, then work is your priority in your life. If you don’t like what you discover, remember that you own your time. Edit your calendar so that you will live your life without regret.
- McGonigal, Jane . “The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years”. Video on TED Talks. 19:30 minutes. July 2012. http://on.ted.com/McGonigal.
- Acuff, Jon. “Start”. Audible Book, 2013.