post written by: Angel Chernoff

5 Ways to Avoid the Biggest Regrets of Dying


5 Ways to Avoid the Biggest Regrets of Dying

by Celestine Chua

Death comes to all of us at some point.  Have you thought about how you would feel when the time comes for you to die?  Have you considered if you would have any regrets about how you led your life?

A palliative nurse who counseled dying patients in the final weeks of their lives took the liberty to record the most common regrets among them.  Many of her patient’s regrets were revealing statements like: wishing they didn’t work so hard, wishing they had the courage to express their feelings, and wishing they had stayed in touch with their friends.

I believe in learning from the experiences of others.  Having the insights of people who have lived to the end of their lives is strikingly helpful in living our best lives.  Rather than reiterate the details of their regrets, I’m going to share them briefly and provide suggestions on how we can ensure that these regrets don’t become our regrets on our deathbeds someday.  While we can’t change our past, we can change the present and the future.  How our lives pan out from here is dependent on what we do starting today.

Regret #1:  I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Are you living the life you have always wanted for yourself?  Or are you simply living a life based on what others expect of you?

Many people today live their life around the expectations of others.  Among my friends, many of them often make decisions based on what their partners or what other people want, rather than because of what they want or believe.  Among my one-to-one coaching clients, they often complain about being trapped in careers they dislike because they chose careers which were deemed acceptable by their peers and family, rather than pursuing career paths that interested them.

I was raised in an oppressive manner by my parents and by my education system.  While I have never faulted anyone for such an upbringing because I believe my parents and teachers came from a place of good intention, I did grow up feeling repressed.  I would do things to conform to what others wanted for me, rather than doing things I wanted to do, and this made me very unhappy most of the time.

Being raised this way made me realize the importance of living a life true to myself.  When I was in my early 20s, I began to come into my own, steadily making decisions and acting in a way that was truer to who I was as an individual.  When I realized I was no longer in love with my corporate career, I quit and moved on to pursue my true passion to help others grow.  When I felt it was time to do what I love to do, I readily started my personal development business (which I continue to run today), by way of my blog Personal Excellence.  When I realized I had friendships which were no longer compatible with the person I had become, I immediately let them go rather than keep up a pretense.

How to avoid this:

Stand true to your beliefs.  If you face naysayers, listen to their feedback, but don’t sweat over it if you don’t agree with what they say.  Just as others have the right to express their views, you have your right not to regard them.  Remember that you don’t live your life to please.  As Winston Churchill puts it:  “You have enemies?  Good.  That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”  Read: 7 Tips To Tackle Naysayers in Your Life

Regret #2:  I wish I didn’t work so hard.

Our modern society is one which drowns itself in busy-work.  People are busier than ever, working twelve-hour workdays, and sometimes even longer.  Parents rarely have time for their kids, and instead relegate care-taking duties to daycares, nannies and grandparents.  People rarely have enough time for relationships or personal activities, often prioritizing their work ahead of everything else because it’s their livelihood.  For some, work forms the core part of their identity.

How to avoid this:

There’s no such thing as “not having enough time.”  It’s only a matter of what you set as your priorities.  If you don’t have enough time for your relationships, it means that you are not making them a priority.  If you missed your anniversary with your lover, it’s only because you deemed the anniversary as less important than whatever it is you had to do at that time.  If you consistently miss your gym classes, it’s only because you are not committed to staying in shape, even if you claim otherwise.

Everyone has the same amount of time every day, be it successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, financial moguls like Warren Buffet, top athletes like Serena Williams, or inspirational leaders like Oprah Winfrey.  It’s silly to think of yourself as not having enough time relative to others, because these go-getters are making productive leaps ahead every day even though they have the same amount of time at their disposal as you do.

Make a conscious choice on what you want to spend time on.  What do you value the most in life?  Are you spending your time in line with your priorities?  If you answer no to the latter question, it means there is a misalignment between your desires and your actions.

This life wheel video (just ten minutes long) will help you do a quick overview life assessment and figure out your immediate areas of priority:

Regret #3:  I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Is there someone you like?  Are you afraid to open your heart to him or her?  Have there been times when you closed your heart to love because you were afraid of what would happen if you opened yourself up to it?

You aren’t alone.  I have quite a few friends who are single, not because they are inadequate (in fact they are high achievers, great lookers in their own right, with great personalities to boot), but because they are closed off to love.  They repeatedly dismiss opportunities to meet new people and expand their social circles.  Whenever there is a guy or girl they take a fancy to, they choose not to act on their desires, instead finding one billion and one excuses why this person is not “the one” for them.

How to avoid this:

I believe it’s better to regret doing something than to regret doing nothing.  In fact, I rarely ever hear of people who regret acting on their desires, even if the outcome may not be what they were looking for.  On the contrary, I always hear about people who regret not doing something and who are now plagued with the question of “What if?”

If you are afraid of expressing your feelings, ask yourself, “What is there to lose?” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”  I believe in wearing your heart on your sleeve and being true to yourself, rather than hiding your feelings.  At worst, the person will reject you and you will realize that your feelings had been misdirected all along.

But wait, is that really a worst-case scenario?  Because now you will know the truth and be able to move on, rather than lingering around a one-sided romance.  On the other hand, if the person reveals similar feelings, you will then be on the way to building a budding romance.  Either way you will be grateful that you acted on your feelings rather than hiding behind a facade out of a mental fear of being rejected.

Regret #4:  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Friendships are often put on the back burner relative to other things, such as one’s career, romantic relationships, financial goals, and personal agendas.

Why?  Because we tend to think friendships will stay afloat even when we do not give them due attention.  As such, many of us take our friends for granted, often pushing back social appointments in the name of work, cancelling on friends at the last minute, or simply not putting in the due effort to meet up with friends face to face.

How to avoid this:

Rather than wait for your friends to initiate a get together, why not take the first step?  Many of my social appointments and gatherings are often self-initiated.  My proactive behavior has encouraged my friends to reciprocate in terms of putting in more effort to build our friendships.  I don’t think there’s a need to wait on other people to meet up; it takes two hands to clap and you can always be the one to gets things moving.

As you reach out to friends, there will be people who do not reciprocate your efforts.  That’s okay.  Don’t take it to heart; sometimes people have different priorities and there’s no need to force a connection if it’s not working out.  Simply move on to the friends who are reciprocating your efforts.  You will build more authentic and fruitful connections this way.

I wrote an in-depth, heartfelt guide on how to establish closer friendships, which you may find helpful:  How To Have More Best Friends in Life

Regret #5:  I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Are you deeply unhappy?  Are you always complaining about little things that go wrong?  Are you always harping on the things you don’t have or things you have missed out on, rather than appreciating the things you do have today and the things you have gained?

Too many people are deeply unhappy not because of their place in life, but because of their misperceptions about what it takes to be happy.  If anything, many of these unhappy people are highly affluent and privileged; they have a comfortable place to live, a stable job, a regular disposable income, a healthy social network, and a family to return home to.

It’s as John Galbraith mentioned in The Affluent Society: “Despite the increasing wealth of the society, people are not happier – in fact, they have become unhappier.”  Why?  Their unhappiness isn’t due to a lack of material wealth, but because they have flawed perceptions of what it takes to be happy.  They think happiness comes from material goods or financial wealth, when these things are simply means to live a better quality life, rather than vehicles of happiness itself.

How to avoid this:

Recognize that happiness is a choice.  Many people relegate their happiness to external factors.  They think they can only be happy if they achieve X, Y, and Z or if X, Y, and Z criteria is satisfied.

Of course, the problem is this criteria is entirely untrue.  Happiness doesn’t happen when those things are achieved; happiness is something you can experience now in this moment if you allow it to happen.  You CAN be happy now if you want to be.  The question is:  Do you?

Here’s a web-lecture on the ten timeless principles on how to be happy:

Your turn…

How do you feel about these five common regrets of the dying?  What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?  Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Author Bio:  Celestine Chua writes at Personal Excellence on how to achieve excellence in life.  If you like this article, check out: 101 Things To Do Before You Die and 8 Habits of Highly Productive People.  Get her free e-book delivered to your inbox by signing-up for her free newsletter.

Photo by: Sheldon Wood

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42 Comments

  • These regrets on dying remind me one of Og Mandino’s scrolls in the Greatest Salesman in the world. “Live this day as if it is your last”. The meaning is to live life fully. Make every second sweat. Extract every bit of juice from this morsel of a minute. Make every hour contribute to your life - as per your priorities. I think, by setting the right priorities and following the 5 ways to avoid the regrets, anyone can really live a life without regrets. Thanks for this beautiful post.

  • It took a cancer diagnosis for me to ‘wake-up’ to the fact, I am not going to be here forever. Lucky for me, I discovered this before I reached my deathbed and I can ask those questions and set myself straight so I do not have regrets when the time comes. Thank you for reminding us to live life right now…for ourselves not to please anyone else. That work thing is a hard one though. So many are scared of losing their job and they say ‘yes’ to their boss, when they would be better off saying ‘no’.

  • It is a frightening thought to look back and wish you didn’t work so hard. I value passion but I noticed a part of me was being consumed by work. I began to prioritize it over my friends. Luckily though, now that I’m back in California for a month, I realize that I’d much rather spend time with my loved ones and closest friends (who are also loved) than work.

    Feels great to feel like that again. :)

  • Wonderful post. Right now I’m working intently on #1. It is hard to get out of the mold you were raised in, but so worthwhile.

  • Great post! I can only imagine that having regrets during the process of dying is the pits.

    In fact, I knew I would regret not spending more time with my children, which is why I switched careers last year to give myself more freedom to help them and watch them grow.

  • My biggest regret would be giving in to fear and conforming to a life expected of me by others. If we listen to everyone else now, we’ll have to answer to ourselves later.

    Great, insightful post. Thanks for sharing.

  • I have read the story about the nurse many times, but every single time I love the lessons learned from this nurse!

    All of these lessons are so true, but I think the point about money can dictate the rest of the lessons. This happened to me when I got out of college…I was only focused on money, so I got a job and focused all of my energy on making money and climbing the corporate ladder.

    I made money, but along the way I lost a lot of myself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until a tragedy in my life that I made a complete change. That is when I started living true to myself…got a job I enjoyed…started working on projects that had more meaning….spending more time with my family…ect. Now hopefully I won’t have the same regrets as most people!

  • One of the biggest challenges is to have the capacity to live your own life. Being there in service to others because they are supposedly needy is so often a big hurdle to overcome. If you have a good perception of your passions, or a strong understanding of personal purpose, it may be easier. But I tell you, to escape the ropes of responsibility is very, very hard and if you aren’t careful, your life as you wish it, simply drifts away.

    Mike

  • Hey, Celes! Great to meet you here as well! :)

    I ask myself every week if I’m on the right path. What if this is my last week? Am I happy with the way I spend most of my time and energy?

    I don’t think it’s feasible to live absolutely every day as it is the last one, although we should aim to do so. However, when too many days in a row don’t feel right, we should do something about it.

    I love your last tip, i.e. that happiness is a choice. I have made this choice in the past years and it feels great. I do have my bad days of course, but this simple attitude shift has made a big difference into how I feel on a daily basis.

  • What a great post. I just turned 57 and have been doing nothing but lamenting about what I did not do when I was younger, what I am stuck doing now and how I feel I have no time left to do anything. It is awful to wake up in the morning and feel like you have no future and no hope.

    For the last 25 years I have been successful in the insurance industry. But funny enough, I have always been afraid to prospect because of my perception of what others will think of me. (I never got over the Woody Allen stuck in the elevator with the insurance agent thing! lol) I get referrals, but I want to really expand my business and work for as long as I am able. To do this I will have to prospect in many ways and take risks I have not taken in many years. I have not taken on this challenge because I tell myself I am to old to do this, people with tell me my ideas won’t work and they will laugh at an “old” guy going for it.

    #1 is the perfect motivation to go for it. Thanks for posting these thoughts, on this day, at this time. Regrets are not in my future. :-)

  • Lovely post!

    What it all comes done to is living with purpose. How do you want to live your life? Not only ask what you want to experience, but also what values you want your life to reflect. Spend time doing meaningful work that contributes to the world, surround yourself with caring and supportive people and love them back. Look at the bigger picture so you won’t let the small daily hassles define you. Sometimes it helps to wonder, what would you like your eulogy to say about you and your life?

    Thank you for sharing great tips!

  • The point about time resonated with me. I hear excuses from my significant other and from my father about how they’re just “too busy” to call or to relax. We all get the same 24 hours–what you do with them reveals where your values lie.

  • Great post! But I found your last sentence (The think happiness from material goods. …) quite conflicting and confusing, because as you rightly pointed when the means to live quality and happy life is absent, then how can you be happy?

  • This really hit home, especially #3, expressing your feelings. Several years ago, I was secretly in love with someone but I never told him because of our complicated personal situations. It took the death of two family members to wake me up to the realization that I needed to tell everyone how much they meant to me.

    I ended up spilling out all my feelings to him in an email. I had absolutely no expectation of anything, I just wanted him to know. He immediately responded, saying he was flattered but he didn’t feel the same way and that he viewed me as more of a sister. It was a blow to my ego, but I have never had any regrets about doing it.

    It has been a number of years and I have moved on. He still isn’t involved with anyone. If I happen to run into him, he barely acknowledges me. It hurts a little because we used to be so close. But I’m happy I’m able to express my feelings and risk rejection than to be an emotional coward who can’t let anyone in, even a formerly close friend.

    Knowing what I know now, I would still have sent that email.

  • Great post. I am 44 with major regrets as to where I am professionally. My passions have all but left me, so I spent 60 days working on getting myself in tune again. All of a sudden I find myself getting braver and acting with more clarity of purpose. I have given myself this year to finish up this career phase, then I am moving on to what I really want to do.

    I have a lot of personal regrets like #3. Thankfully they are in the past. However I do need to appreciate more about what I have, and also what I do NOT have.

    Letting myself be happier I struggle with, I do a great deal of goal setting. Its all about the timeline and the time spent, not about how you did it. Big mistake.

  • “…Of course, the problem is this criteria is entirely untrue. Happiness doesn’t happen when those things are achieved; happiness is something you can experience now in this moment if you allow it to happen. You CAN be happy now if you want to be.”

    I love this post I really do, but one of the major things I struggle with is that idea that more money and success won’t make me happy when I really feel that not only will it make me happier but it will make me eligible for a relationship again.

    I’ve a had a few relationships, all of which ended with me alone and unhappy and while I put my all into each relationships and trusted them with my heart…in the end I felt that the fact these relationships didn’t work proved to me that I’m not good enough and that maybe when I make 100k annually, and maybe I’m a little thinner these things will play out better.

    I’m much like your friends in the sense I’ve pretty much given up on love because for ME it feels like the smart thing to do to avoid pain, and rejection in this regard. I’ve put all my effort into going toward my career because I DO feel that its the only thing that is actually good about me or of value.

    I don’t want to think this way, I want to feel that women place more value on a significant other than material things–I see this from time to time but I feel like for ME that I have to meet some unrealistic expectation to be accepted. I have a lot of friends and people who support me as friends but its been some time since I’ve even thought about getting in a relationship.

    I still feel like I need to make 200k a year just to seem worthy for anyone at this point.

    This post could be helpful, just might take some time.

  • This is beautiful and on time! Thank you!!!

  • I regret not taking a leave of absence from work earlier to attend to my mother who was ill. She died the morning I submitted the paperwork. I’m not going to make the same mistake with my father, even though my siblings are.

  • I also regret that I didn’t spend the time up front to identify career options more suited to my interests. Instead, I took the passive approach and the first job that allowed me to support myself. I’ve tried to get my nieces and nephews to expand their horizons but I fear they are making the same mistake, taking the more familiar path that requires the least amount of effort.

  • The idea of “wishing I hadn’t worked so hard” is so foreign to me. My willingness to work really hard is one of my qualities that I am proudest of. I don’t always like it, but I know that if I want to accomplish any of my dreams, I need to do it anyway. #1 is one that I totally agree with. My parents keep questioning my desire to go to medical school/become a doctor, and keep pushing me to go the computer science route instead, but CS is something I do not want. #3: I used to lament the fact that I seemed to have no luck with the guys, even when I did express my feelings. Now, I do mostly stay to myself and don’t “put myself out there,” but I have also come to the realization that right now is just not the right time in my life for me to be looking.

  • Perhaps you have said this in other ways but I have found that the deepest regret of those left after “Their special someone” has died is not telling the deceased that they love them. This regret is particularly evident between daughters and parents.

    The opposite must also apply, people who are dying have not told those they do love that they love them in any meaningful way. The old, and mostly imagined, hurts or ego slights, continue to be in the way. I do not want to die leaving any ambiguity in the minds of those I love that I love them unconditionally. There can be no regrets if that is the case.

  • Regret #2 is a big one in my life and not easily solved. I have started working at regret #’s 3 and 4. “lost” friends are often surprised to hear from me. Whether or not it is sustainable when they don’t make the effort remains to be seen. Having said that, it makes me feel good about myself so I will continue regardless.

  • Well, I could say that I have mostly not lived my life how others would want me to, which means I haven’t done that much with it, being lazy; I’ve learned that expressing my feelings usually upsets someone, (although that’s probably more down to how I express them I suppose), I certainly don’t work too hard; I don’t have a huge number of friends and those I have I see once a week - school friends, who knows where they are by now, that’s 30 years ago!

    So really, it’s down to the last one. I know that I find life to be so imperfect, even though I know rationally that it never will be, never can be, part of me still wants it to be, hopes it will be. And there is the conflict, the constant niggling stone in my shoe. (Don’t give me some facile platitude about taking my shoes off!) I know that it is a major flaw, and so far, the only thing that gives me any kind of relief from it is Dharma, Buddhism. Buddha said, life is suffering, and this honesty, rather than some airy fairy blather, made me pay attention. And then he said, mind is the creator of all. So I know that my suffering is created by my own mind, my own perceptions. So, the work of my life is to work on my mind and change it. Not sure if I’ll do it before I die, (another thing Buddha said is, we can die at Any Time), but I don’t think there’s anything else worth striving for, ultimately, whatever else in life I do or have, however many friends or family I have.

  • Hi Angel,

    I have been reading your blog for over 6 months now, and it’s a great read, everyday.
    I just want to say how much it has helped me keep focused on what is important in life, what I want to achieve, the baby steps to take in order to achieve it, and how it all fits into the big picture & bigger purpose in life. I’m generally a happy person, thank God…but It has pumped even more happiness into everything I do, and helped me reconnect with myself & others on so many levels.

    I just want to emphasize point 3 about expressing your feelings. I think we all need to realize that we need love in our lives. No matter how successful we may be or become, if we don’t fill our life with love, we will always have this empty hole inside of us.

    Thanks, for all the hard work & passion you & Marc put into this.

    Joseph

  • Yep, I totally agree that doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. Be brave, a bruised heart is better than one that never sees the light.

  • I have difficulty working on both #1 and #4. While I believe I am getting better in living a life I like and take responsibility for it, it comes with a price of giving up on many friendships. I am from a country with heavy social ties, so leaving an independent life is difficult. I will give you an example. On Sundays, everyone goes to church but not me. It is not because I don’t believe in God but because there is so much social pressure that comes with it later that I know I can’t handle. If you live outside your country, going to church is usually the only way to socialize. In the past 5 years I have been a foreigner , every church i was invited to always ended up with some divisions based on race,status etc. Which is why I am not too excited about going there. Also I prefer not going to some occasional parties for the same reasons, so it is no wonder i don’t have too many friends. I would have liked to have some friends that understand me, but those are usually found online and not someone I can hang out with.

  • Great post!

    Mr_Baseball,
    “…I want to feel that women place more value on a significant other than material things…”

    Most of us do! However, I think balance is the key. My ex-husband was an overachiever and made making money his top priority. Now I have a man who adores me but despite his efforts has been jobless for the past three years after losing his franchise. Even though the attraction and love are still there after eight years, the financial situation is putting a lot of stress on our relationship. I have been supportive, patient and understanding because I love him and he is worth it. Unfortunately, I am running out of patience and growing frustrated because he is taking way too long to find his path. So even though people say money can’t buy happiness, in my case, it would at least help me keep it! Again, it’s all about balance.

  • Good reflective post. I found a thread of responsibility through the article. If you take responsibility for ourselves and present state we found a lot of more pleasure and satisfaction in life.

    So true also that happiness and gratitude is a choice. We may feel bad about our present condition, but there is a 99.99% chance there are others in the world in worse circumstance. By consciously looking for and concentrating on what makes us and being grateful for this will go a long way to keep these regrets from coming up during the dying process.

  • Wonderful post… Today is my 53rd birthday. I took the day off work (first time ever having my birthday off, and I think I will make it an annual ‘event’) I am spending most of the day the way I want to (and envisioned)…. being on the internet was not one of them, but I do love these posts. I am looking forward to spending the latter part of the day with 2 very important friends. As always, there is room for reflection and what one wants life to be. I am surprised to find myself at 53 still seeking more, and knowing much has not yet been fulfilled. And yet, I am so very blessed. Reading ‘One Thousand Gifts’ is an eye opener to begin really seeing that there is much all around us to be appreciative of. I love the # that reminds us to be open to love and to express it to others. Connections and friendship really to make a life rich.

  • Today’s post is very timely, just when I am struggling with the death of my Dad a couple of months ago. He suffered from several regrets and consequently so did our family. We loved him but it didn’t seem he ever felt it or really took it in. So sad for him and for me. Thank you, your posts are one of the things I do to keep myself positive and on track! X

  • Love this.

    Perhaps we should focus not on working less hard at everything, but concentrating our efforts after careful consideration on what is truly important and lasting.

  • For #1: I think that if you are lucky enough to have some kind of expectations, boundaries, limitations or guidelines given to you by parents or teachers, then it is possible to break those constraints. Breaking the rules is SO important to growth. However, if you are unlucky and you don’t have guidelines, then you will always try to either recreate some guidelines or continually hurt yourself and others. Living the life you want takes admitting your errors and taking full responsibility for them. Intelligence and humility is key.

  • Powerful stuff. The subject of death is always one of the best ways to start seeing things from a bigger perspective for me. I will ponder these “regrets” for sure which give them a more serious weight than just nice ideas. Thanks.

  • Thank God for wonderful authors and their inspiring ideas. Cheers to life and no more regrets!

  • Wouldn’t my 5 biggest regrets of dying be, I’m dead, still dead, still dead, dead, and you guessed it… I still regret, I’m dead.

    Sorry couldn’t resist… funny title in my mailbox :)

  • @All: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and stories with us. I think Celes did a wonderful job covering these common regrets, and I’m glad so many of you connected with her insights.

    @Inge: You are an inspiration. I’m so happy you beat cancer and are here to share your beautiful story with the world.

    @Travis: Sometimes it takes a big scare, as Inge pointed out, to motivate you to make positive changes. Better late than never though. =)

    @Cornelius: Agreed. If you wake up too many mornings in a row and you are unhappy with what you have planned for the day, it’s time to re-plan your life.

    @DWS: GO for it! =)

    @JK: Knowing is better than not knowing. You made the right choice. Carry on with you head held high.

    @David Rapp: It sounds to me like you’re making significant progress. You’re on the right tract, that’s for sure.

    @Mr_Baseball: Jus take it one step at a time. Don’t rush into a relationship. Make friends and see where things lead. The right relationship will come along at the right time.

    @Dana: I’d have a conversation with your nieces and let them know hwat you’ve learned.

    @Melayahm: If you’ve found Buddhism and it working for you, keep practicing. Honestly, I connected with you sentiments. I deal with them differently, but I know where you’re coming from.

    @Joesph: Great addition. Thanks for the kind words too.

    @Daniel: What about social groups based on hobbess and interests. Perhaps meetup.com?

    @Lisa: Happy birthday! Thanks for the added insight.

    @mark: The way I think about it, dying is a process. We rarely experience sudden death. Thus, this post discusses the regrets of (the process of) dying…

  • I had been doing most of these things that people regret… until I came down with breast cancer. That was the changing point of my life. I realized that I wanted to change and started step by step to actually do it. I started to live a life putting myself first and stop letting others expectations be my guiding force. I stopped trying to please everyone else, except myself.

    Before I got cancer I worked too hard for something someone else wanted, and it nearly killed me. My husband also did this in the corporate world to keep us afloat when I was sick and it nearly killed him also. He retired and we don’t live nearly as extravagant as we did but we have what we need. We have since come together in such a spiritual way that saved us, our family and our marriage. We cocooned for quite awhile during this time and had to put some friendships on hold for a while to get ourselves together and we are now reconnecting with our true friends. I now tell all the people in my life how I feel and how much they mean to me. I feel much more unconditional love and am happier for it. I am much happier now, but still don’t do what I really want to do. I’m still caught up in the idea that I can’t do “the fun stuff until the works done” I need to find the balance to do both.

    One thing that I never regretted was living a simpler life to be able to stay home and raise my children. We did without a lot of “things” to make this happen but it was the best decision I ever made. I was there in the moment , not just making videos of all those special moments in their life or hearing it from others. I was involved in their school and lives. This ended up giving me children who cared for me during my illness, who make time for me in their lives and tell me how much they love me. This taught them what was important in life. I think this was the greatest gift I ever gave them and Myself. Life’s not perfect, but I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.

  • After my husband died I realized that we had spent a lifetime seldom straying outside our comfort zones. We were afraid of failure. So I spent a year saying Yes to every opportunity to experience the new and the different, including climbing into tall trees and reaching the ground via a zip wire(I have a fear of heights and avoid ladders).

    The surprise and joy and sadness of this is that I did not fail and I now have a range of active hobbies and new friends to share them with. The one I enjoy most was one we were saving for retirement, dancing, or rather, partner dancing. My husband stopped work because of illness and died before retirement age.

    I now trust my capacity to learn and change, and, guess what? I wish WE had been able to do this many years ago. So to all of you starting careers I would say, don’t give up your job, don’t stop striving for success, add happiness and breadth of experience into your life goals. My husband said that “This life we have is not a rehearsal”. I think it is extraordinarily difficult to really live like that.

  • @ Dana - I share a similar regret, wishing I had taken a leave of absence to care for my mom when she was terminally ill. I empathize with the pain you must be feeling. I wish you peace.

  • It can be so hard to express one’s true feelings.

    “What if I’m laughed at?” or “what if I look stupid?” are thoughts that can have a huge amount of control over our actions.

    We have to move past those thoughts into action if we want to live without regret. That way when we lay in our deathbed we don’t think about the “what if’s…” in life.

  • I teared up reading through all these posts, it is sad that we all seem to have it hard wired in ourselves that it is easier to accept we might fail than succeed.

    Thanks for the great article and posts.

  • All five of these regrets hit close to home but #2 is the one I personally need to balance the most - working too hard. On the positive side of working too much, I love my work and it’s rewarding. When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. When work makes you happy, you cover regret #5. But when you work all the time, there’s no balance with the rest of life, and you miss out on regret #4 - staying in touch with friends. In a perfect world all five of these regrets are important. It’s interesting how most of us all share the same regrets. It’s also interesting that these are very simple things to do that will ultimately create so much happiness. Thanks for sharing!

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