How to live without regrets: the free parking theory

Who I am
Louise Hay

Author and references

If you want to live without regrets you cannot afford to ignore the free parking theory.

"You are what you are happy with."

Janis Joplin.

I have been passionate about effectiveness and personal growth for the past 15 years, yet I have not yet found an "expert", a coach or a para-guru who has managed to convincingly explain one of the contradictions background of this world.

On the one hand, in fact, books, videos and courses of the various motivators push us to to live without regrets, to set ourselves ambitious goals, to never be satisfied with mediocrity. On the other hand, however, those same stage motivators, having “smelled” a new trend in the training industry, advise us to practice mindfulness meditation, live in the present moment and be grateful for what we already have.

What a caizer! Make up your own mind, right ?! Do we have to be satisfied, risking living in regret, or must we always strive for the best, risking a life of frustration ?!

I admit that I too have fallen into this contradiction.

There are articles on GetPersonalGrowth where I look like I'm straight out of one of those yuppies' 90s movies and I just tell you about ambitious goals and greed for success, others instead in which I seem to transform myself into a Zen monk and start beating myself up with the loving and meditative practices.

In the past I have thought a lot about this inconsistency and not having found an answer in the texts and courses of the so-called training experts, I went to look for it myself ;-)

It was thus that by asking myself what it really meant to live without regrets, I discovered the free parking theory...

Living without regrets means first of all not being satisfied with the first "free parking" ...

The teacher Catherine Drew Gilpin Faust she is not exactly the latest addition: an eminent historian globally, she was the first woman to hold the position of Chancellor of Harvard University.

In this capacity, Prof. Faust often gave the speech that precedes the proclamation of Harvard graduates, reminding her students of what she calls "the parking space theory of life", or the free parking theory. Here are his words:

“Don’t park 10 blocks away from your destination because you think you’ll never find a closer space. Go to where you want to be. You can always circle back to where you have to be. In other words, don’t compromise too quickly.”

Which we could translate like this:

“Don't park one kilometer away from your destination, just because you're afraid you won't be able to find a free spot. Go exactly where you want to go. If you don't find parking, you can always go back. In other words, don't settle too early in your life. "

Here, when we talk about important choices, of long-term choices, the main way to live without regrets is to go straight to our most ambitious goal. In this case…

No compromises = No regrets.

To be satisfied too soon with the "first free parking" inevitably means condemning oneself to a life of "if that time ...", "if instead ...", "if only ...".

Just to make things more concrete: these are the 20 regrets you risk having in 20 years if you continue to choose the most comfortable way.

But this is only half of the story… in fact, in life, we must know how to reconcile future ambition and present satisfaction.

Living without regrets, however, also means having practical sense for small daily decisions ...

Life is a fragile balance between opposites and we, like the tightrope walker Philippe Petit who crossed the Twin Towers on a steel cable in 1974, must be able to move safely above the void, reconciling the opposing forces that attract us.

Imagine, for example, living only for your ambitious future goals, working with your head down nonstop, damaging your soul to achieve the desired success, and then maybe reaching the goal and feeling yourself emptied inside, devoid of the slightest shadow of satisfaction.

Wouldn't this also be a defeat? Wouldn't you live in regret that you didn't enjoy your best years enough?

If it is true that we should aim high and not be satisfied when we face long-term choices, it is equally true that the obsessive search for perfection, for the optimum, in every situation, even the smallest and insignificant, risks turning into a source. of perpetual frustration.

When we are faced with short-term choices, therefore, the "first free parking" almost always turns into the best one. Don't put limits on your ambition when you're deciding about your future life, but don't waste aeons picking that hell of toothpaste! In conclusion…

  • Stop killing yourself mental saws and focus only on what you have real control over.
  • Stop waiting for all conditions are perfect and start that damn project.
  • Stop consuming yours mental energies on small, unimportant decisions and use your willpower for what really matters (remember the risks of decision fatigue?).

Only when we understand this subtle difference between future choices guided by ambition and present choices guided by practical sense, can we hope to truly live a life without regrets.

With no regrets of what could have been. With no regrets of what was not.


“If you have not yet found what is right for you, keep looking, do not stop, as happens with matters of the heart, you will know you have found it as soon as you have it in front of you. And, like great love stories, it will get better and better as the years go by. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle for it. Be hungry. Be crazy. "

Steve Jobs.

There is nothing science fiction about the theory of free parking, most readers will probably share it, yet there are those who will continue to live their lives exactly the opposite: that is, they will choose not to choose when faced with the important decisions of their life (health , training, career, relationships, etc.), settling for the first parking space at the wheel, and will decide on the contrary to devote time and energy to small, worthless decisions, perhaps spending the next few minutes choosing the best filter for the new photo to post on your profile Instagram.

What reader do you want to be?

Do you want to find yourself one day, in front of a mirror, counting the wrinkles on the skin and regrets in the eyes, or rather you want to find yourself in front of that same mirror with the proud look of someone who in life has valued his present, without accepting compromises for its future?

Tic, tac, tic, tac ... time to make a decision ;-)

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