post written by: Marc Chernoff

10 Things You Need to Say Before it’s Too Late


10 Things You Need to Say Before it's Too Late

Be brave.  Say what you need to say.  When you don’t speak up, there’s a lot of important stuff that ends up not getting said.

About a decade ago a coworker of mine died in a car accident on the way home from work.  During his funeral several people from the office were in tears, saying kind things like, “I loved him.  We all loved him so much.  He was such a wonderful person.”  Of course, I started crying too.  But I couldn’t help but wonder if these people had told him that they loved him while he was alive, or whether it was only with death that this powerful word, “love,” had been used without question or hesitation.

I vowed to myself then and there that I would never again hesitate to speak up to the people I care about and remind them of how much I appreciate them.  They deserve to know they give meaning to my life.  They deserve to know I think the world of them.

But this wake-up call taught me something even bigger than that.  Not only did it teach me to speak up to others, it taught me to speak up to myself too, about my attitude, my self-respect, my dreams, and so forth.  Because the harsh truth is, we never know.  We never know when everything will change.  When great opportunities will pass.  When everything we take for granted will be taken away.  We don’t know when later will be too late.

Don’t let this reality depress you; let it motivate you.  Let it push you to say what you’ve been meaning to say all along, to others and to yourself…

  1. “I love you.” – Love rarely ever knows it’s own depth until it’s taken away.  So don’t wait around.  If you appreciate someone today, tell them.  If you love someone today, show them.  Hearts are often confused and broken by thoughtful words left unspoken, and loving deeds left undone.  There might not be a tomorrow.  Today is the day to express your love and admiration.
  2. “Thank you.” – For my 17th birthday, many moons ago, my grandfather on my mom’s side gave me four used flannel shirts he no longer needed.  The shirts were barely worn and in flawless condition, and my grandfather told me he thought they would look great on me.  Sadly, I thought they were an odd gift at the time and I wasn’t thankful.  I looked at him skeptically, gave him a crooked half-smile, and moved on to the other gifts sitting in front of me.  My grandfather died two days later from a sudden heart attack.  The flannel shirts were the last gifts he ever gave me.  I regret the small thing I didn’t say when I had the chance: “Thank you Grandpa.  That’s so thoughtful of you.”
  3. “I am a good person who is worthy of my own love and respect.” – Human beings can withstand a week without water, two weeks without food, many years of homelessness… but not loneliness.  It is the worst of all agonies.  And what’s the worst kind of loneliness?  The kind you can’t escape – when you are uncomfortable with yourself.  The truth is, a partner, or even just a friend, can add lots of beauty to your life, but they can’t fill a void that exists within you.  You alone are responsible for you own fulfillment.  If you feel hopelessly lonely whenever you’re alone, it means you’re in bad company.  It means you need to work on your relationship with yourself first.  (Angel and I discuss this process in detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  4. “I can’t always win, but I can always learn and grow.” – Don’t confuse poor decision-making with your destiny.  Own your mistakes.  It’s OK; we all make them.  Learn from life experiences so they can empower you!  What we call our destiny is really just our character, and that character can be enriched.  The knowledge that you are responsible for your actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging either, because it means you are free to change your destiny.  Yes, the past has shaped your feelings and perspectives, but all this can be altered if you have the courage to reexamine how it formed you.  You can always alter your chemistry provided you have the courage to dissect your elements.
  5. “It’s time to do something positive.” – The next time you have the urge to complain, stop and ask yourself what it is you truly want.  Do you just want to complain or do you want to improve your situation?  Somewhere within each complaint is a genuine desire to improve things, but the complaint by itself is never enough to make it happen.  So make the choice not to aggravate a bad situation with your complaints.  Choose instead to improve it with your positive thoughts, ideas and actions.
  6. “I CAN do this!” – The obstacle is never enough to stop you.  What stops you is your belief that you can’t get past the obstacle.  The problem is not that you have too much of this or too little of that.  The problem is, you’re waiting for perfect conditions that don’t exist.  The achievements that really occur in life, take place in reality.  The things that really get done, get done in an imperfect world.  Don’t make excuses for why you can’t get it done.  Focus on all the reasons why you must make it happen.  There will always be challenges.  And there will always be things you can do to grow beyond them.  (Read Start: Punch Fear in the Face)
  7. “Their drama is NOT mine to deal with.” – Honestly, you can’t save most people from themselves, so don’t get sucked too deep into their drama.  Those who make perpetual chaos of their lives won’t appreciate you interfering with the commotion they’ve created, anyway.  They want your “poor baby” sympathy, but they don’t want to change.  They don’t want their lives fixed by YOU.  They don’t want their problems solved, their emotional addictions and distractions taken away, their stories resolved, or their messes cleaned up.  Because what would they have left?  They don’t know and they aren’t ready to know yet.  And it’s not your job to tell them.
  8. “I’m sorry.” – In this life, when you deny someone an apology, you remember doing so when you find yourself begging for forgiveness.  And if often happens just like that.  Why?  Because guilt festers.  Don’t do this to yourself.  An apology is the best way to have the last word.  The first to apologize is the strongest, and the first to move forward is the happiest.  Always.  And of course, don’t bother apologizing if you’re just going to continue doing the things you said sorry for.  Say it and mean it.  Look the person in the eyes when you say it, and feel it in your bones.
  9. “I forgive you.” – A broken relationship that is mended through forgiveness can be even stronger than it once was.  But, of course, this isn’t always the case.  So remember that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily lead to healed relationships.  That’s not the point.  Some relationships aren’t meant to be.  Forgive anyway, for your own sake, and then let what’s meant to be, BE.  Forgiveness allows you to focus on the future without combating the past.  Without forgiveness, wounds can never be healed, and progress can never be made.  What happened in the past is just one chapter.  Don’t close the book; just turn the page.  (Read Loving What Is.)
  10. “Life right now is pretty darn good.” – Some people wait all day for 5pm, all week for Friday, all year for the holidays, all their lives for happiness.  Don’t be one of them.  Don’t wait until your life is almost over to realize how good it has been.  The good life begins right now, when you stop waiting for a better one.

Your turn…

Sit quietly with yourself, and ask, “What will I regret never saying, to those I love, and to myself?”  Once you have it figured out, leave us a comment below and let us know what you’re going to say.

Photo by: Vinoth Chandar

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42 Comments

  • I have made some poor choices in my past which has resulted in me hurting the people I love the most - my family (who have thankfully remained by my side). If I died right now, I would die with regret, for not being brave enough to admit my wrongs and simply apologize sincerely to those I love. But like you said, it’s not too late. Right now is my chance – a new beginning. I am taking it. Thank you for the kick.

  • Great post, thanks. I can really connect with points 4 and 6: “I can’t always win, but I can always learn and grow” and “I CAN do this!”

    I am finally coming to understand these points and living my life as me, for me. Chasing my fears and conquering those tough “obstacles” that are made up in my mind!

    I would regret talking myself out of giving myself a chance. So I’m going to start talking to myself more positively, starting now.

  • This was so appropriate for me this today. I woke up in the middle of the night last night regretting a lot of the past and fearful of the future. This has been happening to me more and more as of late. I am so tired of living this daily “Ground Hog Day” movie existence. No more. Time to live. Thanks for helping me jump-start my next chapter.

    Really, there’s so much I need to say to myself and others. And I’m going to start now by telling myself, “I am 100% capable of making positive changes. Time to take action!”

  • I need to spend more time telling and showing my kids how much they mean to me. I’m always so busy, but I know that’s just an excuse.

  • So many people avoid reflecting on impermanence because they fear it will be depressing. But as you suggest here, I find it to be the opposite: “Don’t let this reality depress you; let it motivate you. Let it push you to say what you’ve been meaning to say all along, to others and to yourself…”

    I think there’s also a deeper level to work with in addition to saying words like “I love you.” Which is learning to open your heart and really, really feel it.

    So many of us had challenging childhoods and didn’t receive the kind of nurturing we deserve. As a result, it might be a little harder for us to truly feel love as deeply as we can. But, the more and more we do, the richer our life becomes

  • I have done something that I could never forget– making me think that I should not trust myself for I may repeat that same big or even more huge mistake in my life. However, I would like to say “Thank you!” because after reading your posts, and praying to God, I finally revived myself to the past. Forgiving myself and eventually giving myself another chance to take each days as a new beginning.

    “You’re even more beautiful when you accepted your flaws.”

  • Nice article. I am inspired.

  • Excellent post. Better LATE than NEVER !

  • I’ve just found your website recently and love it. I see myself daily in your writings, some in a positive way… but some in the negative way. It reenforces the fact I need to work on myself. I am 62 in a relationship which is toxic I’m afraid. I find it easy to see his faults but have to remind myself I play a part also. There are so many red flags why it should end but am paralyzed from doing anything about it.

  • Marc and Angel,
    Once more a great post. Our past does not have to be our future. Learning from one’s mistakes and overcoming obstacles or excuses is what helps us. Sometimes it is just one tragic event an unexpected terminal illness of a loved one that knocks us down. It’s being able to find the positive and good amongst it all (even when it’s really hard to see) that keeps us strong in the end. We must move forwards, not backwards.

  • Kristine Adams
    May 26th, 2014 at 8:54 am

    “Drama” focus, #7. Wow. Strong connection w/ my adult kids confirms our mutual love, investment in one another and our diverse goals. But there’s a prodigal member whose choices continually wrench all of our hearts and minds. She’s only appeased when, immersed in blubbering self pity, all energy is drawn her way. Even the loss of her children has not brought about genuine grasp of reality. And all help extended, over many years, is rejected if there’s any mention of her investment of energy to free herself. It “works” for her, no intent of change considered.

    Your referring to “not wanting (them) taken away” crystallized awareness of true dynamics at play. Thank you!

  • I can say I try to do all these. Sometimes it is difficult but for the most part, I do.

    The ones that stand out to me are “I love you” and “Thank you”. I practice those constantly and mean it always. I love the site and all the encouraging info you provide.

    Many thanks,
    Linda :D

  • Very nice. Thank you!

  • Great post. I particularly like #7.

    I have a family member who can be quite negative and I work every day with this phrase: my life - his life. Your reminder is more to the point and has more oomph.

    I’ve been thinking about your question - Because what would they have left?

    You’re right, we can’t know and they don’t want to know. My guess is that it would be starkly painful to quiet all that drama and feel what’s inside.

    Meanwhile, I’ll be focused on not losing my own sense of joy.

  • I’ve treated my life like something disposable for far too long. Life is fleeting. We never know when it will end. I am taking back my life and pursuing my dreams. If I don’t start now I may never. Thanks for the inspirational article.

  • I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Don’t know why. If my life was a movie, I bet I’d die soon haha. But truth is I can’t find a way to say people “I love you” and lately I’ve been feeling the need to say this mainly to my parents. I’m 25 and I never said “I love you” to any of them simply because when I think in saying I feel shy. I’m not a lot emotional person and I think that if I say it to them they will think I’m acting weird… I’ll think I’m acting weird.

  • I’m grateful that I never let an “I’m sorry” or an “I love you” or an “I miss you” or an “I forgive you” or a “Forgive me” go unsaid, and neither did my boys. We weren’t perfect by any means, but we knew the importance of those words. I buried my boys a long time ago, both victims of drunk drivers (in separate crashes). I’m grateful there were no words left unsaid and that they each died knowing their mom loved them.

  • I am glad to say that I often tell my family and my friends that I love them. It has been particuarly poignant recently as my best friend is seriously ill, and my Mum has been under the weather, too. I always told them I loved them anyway, but I say it more often now.
    Francine - the more you say it, the more natural it feels. Try saying it at the end of a phone call - “Bye. Speak soon. Love you”, or just quietly when you’re giving them a goodbye hug. Saying it frees them up to say it to you, too.

  • I would regret not telling you how much your posts mean to me. I see how many people have a better day after reading your blog and I am grateful. Thank you, Marc.

  • Good stuff Marc and Angel.
    Here are several more.

    1. Help!
    2. How can I help you?

    And with regard to Self-Knowledge:
    1. What do I want (rigorous, not superficial examination)
    2. What do I need (not the same thing, of course!)
    3. What am I willing to do to get it (wants and needs)
    5. there are more too!

  • I’d say you missed just one very important thing that we all need to learn to say before it’s too late: “I don’t know.”

  • Marc and Angel, I am so grateful for the columns that you send me. You are always about improving my spiritual life, and I need that so much. There is a lot for the mind, a lot for the body, but not much for the spirit. You always give me something for my spirit, and I appreciate it. It is always thoughtful, always well-written, and right on time. Thanks!

  • When it comes to family, it’s very hard to say “I love you” to a mother or dad if they’ve never said it to you (or maybe never heard it said to them by their parents). In later years, I finally said to myself that I would say it whether my parents or I were comfortable with it or not. Fortunately, “I love you” were the last three words my father heard from me before he died.

    Your points are thought-provoking and in the reminders, I see what progress I’ve made and what is still left to do. #7 rationale is perfect and helps in dealing with drama; although, thanks to you and your advice, I’m dealing with less and less of it :)

  • Hey Marc & Angel.
    These are fantastic. Imagine a world where everyone said this! I don’t comment much, but I had to for this one. Thanks for the daily inspiration once again. :-)

  • Right now I believe I am a victim of “mobbing” at work (this is when a group of coworkers “gang up” or group bully one person in an effort to discredit them, call out mistakes you made and in general create such a hostile work environment it can result in major depression, PTSD and more so that you are forced to find a new position). I keep reading this blog to try to find a way to make it stop because I absolutely love what I do. The worst employee is someone who believes I am the one who throws others under the bus. I asked for examples and they were times when I was being accused of not doing something for work which I had done and defended myself. So I protected myself rather than taking the rap. So I did say I’m sorry but I really didn’t realize that this would be throwing someone under the bus. My mgr is in the mob too so I can’t go to her and if I go to HR with the evidence (many pages of attack emails) and they go to her I will be eliminated. she is vicious. Soooo I am acting like a victim, but I need this resolved because I love what I do. I never wait til the end of the day to live, my days are never long enough! I dread Fridays because then when I work on my own time I don’t get replies to emails.

    Numbers 5 and 6 relate to me..positive thoughts, ideas and actions. I’m going to do this and anticipate the crushing rejection of all my ideas (of course, until those ideas morph into their ideas) with a positive response and action. For #6 I’m not going to allow this mobbing to be an obstacle from moving forward ahead of them (and not behind them or away from them). However in looking out for my own best interest I am going to start looking for a new position but it is unlikely that it will have the same interest for me. (Maybe it will have even more!!!) (but I do realize they will have squeezed me out just as they planned).

  • I thank YOU for your wonderfully insightful, loving and awe-inspiring articles. I find them extremely motivating and touching and appreciate you for taking the time to share your thoughts and feelings. Often I find myself “head nodding” and always appreciate the reminders and you also provide new insight that has helped not only myself but people in my life. Bravo!

  • I love your articles and agree with all the points you made in this one. However, number seven is tricky. I have known true drama queens and agree that they enjoy their drama and don’t really want help, but I have to think that we have to be careful we don’t confuse someone who truly does need our help with the drama queens.

    Sometimes people desperately need our empathy and compassion and it can make a world of difference to them. So err on the side of compassion first…if they are the other type, you will eventually realize it and can back off.

  • Thank you Marc and Angel. Great post as always.

  • Really liked that both “I love you” and “I love myself” are included here.

    Without loving ourselves, it is much harder to fully love another person.

  • I generally like the tone of the piece to act today and be more self aware. You lost me on #2, your Grandfather re-gifted shirts he wasn’t using. Your reaction was warranted. The gift wasn’t thoughtful at all, you know it. No reason to feel bad just because he passed suddenly a few days later.

    My favorite was #6. I hear it’s “not the right time” all too often. This leads to missed opportunities. Missed opportunities lead to regret. It’s never the right time for most things, we need to take that out of the equation. If there is something you want to do, start today. Take action. Stop talking and start doing.

  • Love this…we flock to people’s funerals, we need to show them we love them when we are alive..so many great points here..thank you :D

  • Hi, this is such a very enlightening post. The words that really got stuck on my mind was that, the good life begins right now, when you stop waiting for a better one, which is so true indeed. Thanks for sharing a great article.

  • I recently said to my mum ‘can I have a hug’. There is a lot of love in my family but we are all so busy and independent, affection is generally saved for my man. One day I just thought, you know, I’m just going to ask for one. I thought it might be weird but it was lovely to ask, lovely to give and lovely to receive…and somehow, some invisible barrier has been broken through too.

  • I love these. #7 spoke to me. In the name of trying to be a loving, sympathetic friend, oftentimes I’d get wrapped up in others’ dramas. I think it’s so true, as you point out, that some people can become so attached to and identify with their dramas that to solve them would leave them feeling empty and directionless. In those cases, I am reminded to “Detach with love”.

    #9 “So remember that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily lead to healed relationships.” I have recently learned this lesson. I’ve found forgiveness in my heart but have accepted that certain relationships must come to an end anyway.

    #10 I have a friend who will send me texts on Monday morning “only 4 days til the weekend!” or “23 days until I see you!” The former has always rubbed me the wrong way (especially when Monday morning has hardly started!) and while I find the latter to be sweet, I think that putting too much emphasis on how great the future will be takes joy away from the present moment.

  • @Carla: Start taking action on the things that are important to you. You won’t be disappointed.

    @Francine: Accept the weird and uncomfortable and say those words you need to say. Right now you are alive. This moment is your life.

    Your friends and family are too beautiful to ignore. Take a moment to remember how fortunate you are to be breathing. Take a look around, with your eyes earnestly open to the possibilities before you. Much of what you fear does not exist. Much of what you love is closer than you realize. You are just one brief thought away from understanding the blessing that is your life. Share it!

    @Dave Nordella: Huge smile on my face, thank you! =)

    @Frank Daley: I especially like the “help” suggestion. Great additions, thank you.

    @Julie: You’re absolutely right! The most successful people are rarely the ones who have all the answers, they’re the ones who ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask when you don’t understand. Ask when you need help. Ask for what you want. Ask how to make things happen. It’s the reason children are always asking so many questions, because they know they’ll never get anywhere if they don’t ask. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    @All: Whatever you need to say, say it. There’s only so many tomorrows. Thank you for the inspiring thoughts. And, in case we don’t say it enough… thank you for being AWESOME! :)

  • “I am a good person who is worthy of my own love and respect.” YES! YES! AND YES!

  • I read this sentence about 10 times: “Hearts are often confused and broken by thoughtful words left unspoken, and loving deeds left undone.”

    Love it!

  • Thank you for this amazing article! :)

  • I really enjoyed reading your tips. I will self evaluate what I am worth to myself and move foward in a positive direction. I will apologize to my loved ones and tell them I love them more often. Thanx

  • Maybe #1. A girl waiting for almost 9 yrs. to tell a boy she loves him yet never had the chance and courage to do so. Not so hard, eh?

  • Thank you for this article. It showed up on my Facebook news feed just at the right time. I have been struggling with depression for a while, my partner of 4 years cheated on me, abused me, my grandfather died of cancer, and recently my partner was diagnosed with cancer all in one year For a while, I lost myself and completely shut down. I couldn’t forgive, I couldn’t accept, I regretted not saying and doing what I wished to do for the people I love. Thank you for reminding me how short and uncertain our lives are. Thank you for reminding me to forgive and to accept, others and ourselves.

  • “Thank you” - courtesy costs nothing but buys everything.

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