How to Use Guilt to Motivate Yourself

Have you ever experienced a moment so profound that it split your life into a ‘before’ and ‘after’?

A moment that altered your life’s trajectory so drastically that you knew nothing would ever be the same again?

Take our fictional heroine, Lou Clark, from “Me Before You,” for instance.

The title itself is a dead giveaway.

But unless you’ve turned the pages of the book, you wouldn’t know what or who drew the line between her ‘before’ and ‘after’.

And most importantly, how.

Enter Will Traynor, a man who lived life to the hilt until he couldn’t anymore.

His impact on our dear Lou is a story for another day.

Reading this book was my own ‘mini’ before-and-after moment.

It wasn’t just because it made me weep like a baby (a first for me, thanks to a book).

Nor was it because the fictional hero inspired a 180-degree turn in my life.

No, it was the wave of guilt that washed over me for days.

A guilt that stemmed from a sudden, inexplicable empathy for all those who yearned to live but couldn’t.

When Guilt Ushers in Your Second Life

Imagine being able to step outside your body and watch yourself.

I’ve had such a moment, a pivotal life event that often takes me back to a time when I was consumed by guilt.

  • “I should have called more often.”
  • “If only I knew how fleeting our time together was.”
  • “Oh, for just one more day with her.”

These agonising thoughts haunted me as I stood at a family funeral, grappling with the reality of loss.

Such ‘before and after’ moments usually find us in the throes of suffering, following an unexpected, irreversible crisis.

Be it redundancy, ill-health, or death, we’re forced to confront and evaluate the life we’ve lived.

But what if we didn’t wait for a catastrophic event to jolt us into self-reflection?

Our everyday lives offer ample opportunities to reflect on our choices and live with minimal regrets when the inevitable end comes.

So, how can we harness guilt to achieve this?

Let’s delve into that.

Using Guilt as a Motivator to Change Your Life

Guilt, though often seen in a negative light, can actually be a powerful motivator.

It’s like an internal alarm bell, alerting us when something in our lives needs our attention.

It could be the guilt you feel after indulging in junk food, binge-watching your favourite TV shows for hours, or spending too much time on social media.

Or perhaps it’s the guilt that creeps in after gossiping about someone behind their back.

Most of the time, we engage in these activities out of habit.

But there comes a time when guilt starts to weigh heavily on us.

At first, it’s subtle, coming and going. But over time, the feeling intensifies.

You may not know exactly why, but you start to feel that you could be doing better with your life.

You could be spending your time more wisely, or making different choices that align better with your values.

This guilt, though uncomfortable, can actually be a good thing.

It prompts self-introspection, pushing you to address the things that have led you to where you are.

The feeling becomes too overwhelming to ignore, and you find yourself compelled to act.

Living Your Second Life: A Journey Sparked by Guilt

My second life began when a precious life in our family was taken away.

With it went my first life, a life that had shown little regard for how short and fragile our lives truly are.

It was only then that I truly understood the words of Confucius:

We have two lives, and the second begins when we realise we only have one.

I made a vow to myself.

I would be a better daughter, sister, and aunt. I would keep in touch with my family more frequently. I would be more available to those who needed me.

I would place more value on relationships than on superficial things.

I would devote time to doing things that made me happy, not just things that pleased others or met societal expectations.

I would create a meaningful life in my own way rather than try to fit in or blindly follow the crowd.

Final Thoughts: Turning Guilt into a Tool for Personal Growth

Guilt can lead you to confront your current life head-on.

It can help you discard the things that are holding you back and preventing you from living your best life.

Listen to that intuitive voice within you, acknowledge the guilt you’re feeling, and turn it around as a tool to live your wonderful life.

When used wisely, guilt can lead to new beginnings. It can be the catalyst for change, pushing you to deal with guilt from the past and move towards a brighter, more fulfilling future.

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