Top five regrets

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 10, 2012, 1:45 PM | comments: 0

I saw a link recently to a book about the top five regrets dying people have, and I couldn't help but wonder how I was doing with those. Apparently the regrets are as follows:

  • I wish I had had the courage to live a life true to myself rather than the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I had let myself be happier.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I'm happy to report that the last three are non-issues for me. Working too hard, not expressing my feelings and not keeping in touch are hardly struggles for me. The first two, however, are a mixed bag.

Living a life that is true to yourself can be a really hard thing, in part because it's hard to even define what that means. I tend to declare that I don't care what other people think, and sometimes that's true. There are other times where I know I do care. I've avoided certain fashions and body piercings because of what others might think. On the other hand, I've always bought (mostly) cheap cars and a reasonable house because I don't care what other people think.

Appearances aside, being true to yourself is more deeply rooted in the expectations you have of yourself. I want to be a good husband and father because I expect it, not because society wants that. We ask a lot of ourselves, and it's hard to say if that means we're being true to ourselves. So many things we do come from some kind of cultural programming or domestication, that we didn't consciously choose.

It's worth noting that the context of death bed regrets are little different from in-the-moment actions. It's easy to say you'd do things differently when you're near a point where you won't do anything.

Wishing I'd let myself be happy, that's a hard one. I remember thinking very often in 2010 that I was happy in a way I had not previously known. I was (and continue to be) in a great marriage, with a wonderful child, and a job I didn't despise. I got to see mountains every day. Did I allow for that happiness, or did I take action to make it? I've spent the last year wondering if the decisions I made about moving and career have been right, and I feel like I've been in a limbo state of happy-non-happy. In this case, I'm not sure I'm allowing it.

These are good points to think about periodically. I understand our time is finite. We want to make it count because not doing so calls into question why we bother at all, and that's not a dark place anyone wants to go.


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