As we age and think about retirement and beyond, we become more reflective about the life we have lived. We also think more about the life we should have lived. Wouldn’t it be helpful to minimize the regrets we have about our lives? We can do this by anticipating those regrets before it is too late to do something about them.
The author lists five common themes among the death bed regrets expressed by her many patients:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I have some personal comments about a few of these.
Regret No. 1 – living your own life, not the life expected of you – is so critical. Yet it was the most frequent regret expressed by the dying. We are in a constant struggle between gaining acceptance of our choices by others and making the choices that we want. That struggle never seems to end. Yet, as we age, we seem to have more time and freedom to move in directions designed by our own goals and ideals. When that time and freedom to make personal choices becomes available, we should exploit it
Regret No. 2 – working too hard – was apparently unanimous among the male patients. I am acting on this problem now, having redesigned my work-life to create more opportunities to do other things. I am not working as hard as I could. I am not making as much money as I could. But I do not miss it. I hope that I can keep this regret off my list.
Regret No. 4 – keeping in touch with friends – I am working on this also. The rewards of reconnecting and enjoying friends from years past are immense. I’m talking about high school friends who knew you when you were forming your adult personality. Heck, they probably influenced your personality, for better or worse! Staying in touch with extended family is also important. I try to drive some of that activity myself by organizing summertime family gatherings at our lake home.
Here is a link to the full article on the regrets of the dying. I encourage you to read and think about it.
So what are you doing to minimize death bed regrets?