Reading back through this article to republish it helped me gain some perspective. Five years after I wrote this, I still wonder if I’m doing a good enough job keeping up with old friends and living a life worth living. Am I making the impact I really could be? Sometimes I don’t know.
I’m republishing this post which I wrote in April, 2012 as part of my 2017 daily writing project.
I recently stumbled on an article outlining the top 5 regrets that dying people voice. While the article may sound kind of morose, the good news is that you can live without any regrets.
Here are the five biggest regrets according to the piece and the way you can avoid them:
Regret: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Fix: Don’t be afraid to change everything if you have to.
It’s inevitable. At some point, you will find yourself going down a road to an unfulfilled life. You’ll wake up every day, hating your job, and counting down the days to retirement. Change it now. If you take a risk and find something that you love, you can make it happen. Don’t wait. There will never be a better time to change your life than now.
Regret: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
Fix: Love your work.
Our society tells us that you have to work hard to get ahead. Working hard alone won’t make you a success (although it helps). Working hard at something you love is the key. If your job allows you to live the life you want, and you love doing it then the whole, “worked too hard” regret flies out the window.
Regret: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Fix: Find people you can trust and lay it all out there.
You may have to force yourself. For many, expressing their feelings is not natural, but it allows you to truly connect with people. At the end of it all, your life’s value will in large part be determined by the impact you had on others, and you won’t impact anyone if you are never honest. Take some time every day to interact with real people you enjoy.
Regret: I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Fix: Keep a contact calendar.
Thanks to the internet, keeping up with old friends is easier than ever before, but that doesn’t mean you’ll remember to reach out to them. Build an exclusive list of your best friends, mentors, and former coworkers, and schedule a regular time to reach out to each of them. Don’t expect them to contact you. Take the initiative, and don’t lose touch with the truly meaningful people in your life.
I use a system for reaching out to people once per quarter, and I’ve written more details on this topic here.
Regret: I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Fix: Learn to recognize and recapture your happiness.
Contentment is not true happiness. Plenty of people are just content enough to keep going, but are they really filled with joy and happiness? Rarely. Take time to reflect and meditate on your life every month. Stop. Don’t work. Don’t watch TV. Don’t talk. Just sit and think. Where are you? Where do you want to be? What would allow you to recapture the childlike joy you once had?
Stop allowing yourself to remain content because you are afraid to pursue something more. A life of fear will end filled with regret.