How to be at Peace with Your Choices. Life Lessons from the Book - The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Updated: Sep 13, 2021
Recently I finished listening to an amazing & captivating audio book The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. It's a fiction book about a woman in her mid 30s disappointed with her life, feels like she is of no use to anybody, has disappointed everybody and feels like ending her life. At midnight, she ends her life by taking an overdose of her antidepressants. Between life and death, she enters a library called the Midnight Library where she gets to look at her Book of Regrets. She can erase those regrets by living those lives she had always wanted. In short, she can rewrite her life story and live various lives undoing her regrets. It's a very interesting take on regrets, being at peace with your choices, happiness and disappointments. Although it's a work of fiction, but there are life lessons in the book which are evergreen. Following are my learnings:
1. Mistaking Regrets to be Reality
When she first arrives in the Midnight Library, Nora reads a book full of every single regret she’s ever had in her life. These regrets torture her. They cause her so much pain that she has to put the book down. In each regret, Nora sees a wasted opportunity for success or happiness. Yet, when she gets the chance to change those regrets and see where they would’ve led her, she realizes those paths would not have made her happy after all. Sometimes, we mistake our regrets for reality, when in fact they have imagined futures we have created in our heads. Who knows what might have happened if you’d taken that job offer, or asked that cute guy/girl out on a date? Sure, it may have led to everlasting happiness. Or it may have led to you losing out on a better opportunity further down the line. When we have regrets, it’s because we’re assuming the optimal outcome, ignoring all the ways it could end badly. We like to imagine that our lives would be better if we’d made a different decision because it’s easier to think about the what-ifs instead of facing the true underlying causes of our unhappiness in the present. Read my article here on how to overcome regrets.
“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living… it takes no effort to miss the friends we didn’t make and the work we didn’t do… but it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself.” — Matt Haig
2. You Do Matter
Because we cannot see the big picture, it’s easy to assume that our lives make no difference to the world, that our influence on those around us is minimal. But that’s not the truth. What we do matters. The choices we make every single day matter. Not just to us, but to those around us too.
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect suggests that minor changes can result in sizeable differences at a later stage. Though the theory was initially applied to weather science, it makes sense in real life too. Maybe a story you shared with someone lifted their Spirit. Maybe a compliment you gave to someone for their effort, made their day. So never underestimate your importance in the world. Even a fallen leaf from a tree acts as a fertilizer to the soil. In nature everything matters and so do you.
3. Infinite Potential In & Out
Potential can be defined as having latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success. It’s about having the power to create a better future for ourselves. We all have that power, but sometimes we forget we do, or we convince ourselves that we’ve wasted it.
4. Self Acceptance
In the book, the lead character Nora, tries to live the life that her family wanted to live, but when she got to revisit those lives through the midnight library, it didn't make her happy. She definitely made her family happy, but deep down she was depressed in those lives as well. Hence, this book tried to preach about being accepting of who you are as a person, your passions and being at peace with your choices because if you try to live for everybody you are already dead. Also, it was noted in some of the lives, people being disappointed with Nora, had less to with her but more to do with their own insecurities and fears. They projected their own ambitions, frustrations and disappointments from themselves on her. Hence, people critiquing you for their miseries, should not be taken personally.
5. Life is Precious
In the daily grind of life, we forget to see the good things in our life and start taking them for granted. Our mind is conditioned to focus on negativity more because of its survival instinct. But we should remember that there is no picture perfect life. There is something like happiness because there is also sadness, there is positivity because there is also negativity. In fact, due to the negatives we get to appreciate the positives. Hence imbibing more of gratitude and appreciation for things that are going right will help you be at peace with the imperfections.
6. Be Kind
The story also reveals Mrs. Elm's character who is the librarian in the Midnight Library. She was kind to Nora when she was a teenager hence formed an important part of her subconscious mind. Through her, she was able to understand her life in the Midnight Library, overcome regrets and wanted to live again. Thus, being kind to someone goes a long way. Even if it's a small thing, spreading kindness can not only lighten our book of regrets but also it can come back to us multiplied.
The book has impacted me in a big way. It has made me realize that for being at peace with your choices, one should live a life which is true to yourself. One should have high self love because you can only spread love and light when you are full of that for yourself. And finally dwelling in the past with what ifs and what would have been can lower our energy as right now, you are at the best position in your life as per your spiritual and emotional evolvement. Will you read the book? Share your thoughts below.
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The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Some of the References from which the above content was inspired.