People mature a great deal when confronted with their own death. Never underestimate a person’s capability to grow. Sometimes, the changes can be phenomenal. They experience a range of emotions, from denial, to fear, and anger, then remorse, more denial, and finally acceptance. When asked if they had any regrets or would have done anything differently, similar regrets keep surfacing repeatedly:
1. I spent my whole life trying to be somebody else.
It is the standard to conform to the majority, follow the trends, and adopt what everybody is doing and participate. In doing so, a person will never become who he really is because he has taken the identity of what the society dictates. Taking the time to understand oneself is important. It enables a person to get a clarity of what he wishes to achieve during his short time in this world. He will discover the things he loves, things that are important to him, and things he may wish to change. And most importantly, he will understand what makes him special and how his individuality can help him leave the world a much better place than he found it.
2. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life that other people wanted me to.
When a person realizes that his life is nearly over, he looks back on it and it’s so simple to see so many of his dreams have gone unfulfilled. Many people had to die with the knowledge that most of their dreams were unfulfilled because of the choices they made, or not made. It’s extremely important for a person to honor at least a few of his dreams along the journey. From the instant that a person loses his health, it’s far too late. Health gives a freedom only few would understand, until he no longer has it.
3. I thought I knew everything.
People always assume that if they graduate from college, they know everything. The truth is that when a person stops learning, he stops growing. Ever since the beginning of time, humans have always been exploring about life just to gain more knowledge. Constant learning enables people to discover things about themselves and the world. Every person’s life experiences teach him things that he could never learn in a classroom. In essence, we do not know everything, and that’s precisely what makes life so interesting.
4. I never made any mistakes.
It appears counterproductive to want failure, but making mistakes are exactly what enables a person to grow. The point is not to make many mistakes, but to learn from the mistakes. Each amazing invention, discovery, or transformation began with many mistakes before it finally succeeded. It is not about making mistakes that matters, but it’s really about having the courage to make them.
5. I hated my job.
Working 9 to 5 for the mounting debt on house mortgages, car loans, and credit cards bills. Add that to the duty of supporting a family, and it might seem a person will be trapped forever. If a person doesn’t enjoy his job now, that’s alright because many people feel the same way. However, if by the time he lays on his deathbed and he still hates it and never left, that is an issue. Nobody wants to look back and say he took the safe and easy path, accepted that he wasn’t meant to do anything meaningful with his life. Yes, leaving a job is frightening, particularly when supporting a household. It does not mean he must quit today, however, having an exit strategy towards a profession he actually enjoys will relieve himself from a life of misery.
6. I wish I had not worked so hard.
A person will realize what are the things that are truly important and matter most to him when his life is coming to an end. He missed his kids’ childhood and his spouse’s company. He is deeply sorry for spending all his time on work. Simply by streamlining his lifestyle while making mindful choices, it’s still possible to live a life without the kind of income that he thinks he needs. And by squeezing out more spaces in life, he can become happier by having the ability to be more open to any new opportunities, those more appropriate to his new lifestyle.
7. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
People keep their feelings to themselves so they can keep the peace with other people. They opted for an average existence and unable to become who they really are. In the end, many of those people developed illnesses because of the resentment and bitterness they had been carrying all their lives. Whatever reactions of other people are beyond our control, but honesty will raise the relationship to a healthy, new level. Or it will just release the unhealthy ones from a person’s life. In any case, he wins.
8. I let anger get the best of me.
Feeling angry is natural. All of us experience it, and sometimes it’s completely understandable. However, we will be hurting ourselves if we allow anger to control us and destroy our relationships. Among the best methods to resolve anger is to have empathy and try to comprehend why people did what they did. By reflecting on those times when a person was angry will help him to find the root of exactly what is troubling him, and thus allowing him to move on and return to being happy.
9. I spent too much time hanging around negative people.
It will come to a point in time when a person needs to face the truth that not everybody he spends his time with is really benefitting his well-being. Some people simply aren’t enjoyable to be around. If a person wants the best use of his time, he should minimize spending time with people who drain him emotionally, disrespect him, or treat him poorly. When he stops spending time with toxic people, he frees himself for more opportunities to have relationships with positive people.
10. I wish I had kept in touch with my family and friends.
People are social animals. A person is meant to be around other people, especially those he loves. If this does not seem important to him right now, understand that some day he may feel that way, when the people he loves are gone and he realizes that he did not show them how much he loved them. He had been so busy in his own life that he had let precious relationships slip by. Usually, he will not realize the importance of keeping in touch with old friends until he is dying and it is not often possible to track them down. Everybody misses their family and friends when they are about to die. There will be many regrets of not giving relationships the time and effort they deserved. A person will want to have his finances sorted out if possible. However it’s not about money that really matters to him anymore. He wishes to have things arranged for the benefit of those people he loved and left behind. But usually, at this time he will be too weary to manage this task. Eventually, it all boils down to love and relationships. That’s all that ever remains in the final days, just love and relationships.
11. I did not take care of my health.
If a person doesn’t take care of himself, his time will come sooner. Smoking, drinking, binging, lazing… all these bad habits accumulate over time. Continuous bad habits speed up aging and brings him closer to his final days. A person can buy a new house, another car, or get another job, but he only gets to have one body. If he wishes to have an abundance of amazing moments, he needs a body that can ride out the long haul.
12. I did not give as much as I took.
It is simple to forget a person does not take anything material with him after he dies.
Once he’s gone, that is it. Everything he has is left behind. So why does a person spend precious years of his life taking instead of giving? Money is constantly the one thing that is in a person’s mind. It isn’t that he should give all his money away, but life is about giving, caring, and sharing experiences. The more a person gives, the happier he will be.
13. I wish I had let myself be happy.
Happiness is a choice. There is nothing worse than wasting time doing the exact same thing again and again expecting something different to happen. Absolutely nothing extraordinary will happen if a person doesn’t go out there and do something. The fear of change made him into pretending to other people and to himself, that he was happy. When deep down inside, he yearned to laugh out loudly, be silly, and his life innocent and carefree like a child’s again. Leaving the confinement of familiarity and comfort is a battle for anybody at first. However if a person took the challenge and when the time comes for him to look back at his life in its entirety, at least he’ll be proud to say the most difficult decision he faced was not choosing which channel to watch on the TV. When a person is on his deathbed, what other people think of him is the last thing on his mind. How awesome it would be, being able to let go and laugh again, long before he is dying.
Life is a choice. Choose wisely. In the end, you will only regret on the things you didn’t do. The important thing is how you live your life, how well you take care of yourself, and how well you take care of other people. This is your life, you only get one. Don’t waste your life surviving it, start living it.