I read an interesting article from a man who used to work in palliative care. He would be there for the last few hours or days of the lives of these people and I can only imagine some of the conversations and experiences that went on during that time.
To be in a situation where you know you are about to die and your journey on this planet is nearing its end has to be hard for anyone to handle. In his article, Regrets of the Dying he gives some insight on what these patients had to say on their death beds and some of the regrets that they had looking back on how they lived their life.
Do you know what the number one regret was? It wasn’t that they didn’t make more money, it wasn’t that they didn’t start a family, it wasn’t even that they wish they had made more time for loved ones.
No, surprisingly despite everything you hear about what you need to live a successful and happy life, the number one regret that people had before they died was;
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
That is it. The biggest regret people had was simply that they did not live their life the way they wanted to. They were influenced too much by other people and by the roles that society has told them they must fill, instead of being true to themselves and looking for what they truly want out of life.
I think this is a huge issue in our world because as a society, we are so focused on things like money, power, and status that we tend to forget about what we truly want.
We tend to forget about what makes us happy and what our true goals and dreams are in this world. Instead we favor the goals which have been picked out for us by others because it makes us look more successful.
As kids we learn from our parents and teachers what path we should take. From a young age they may push us to become Doctors, Lawyers or to go after other high paying jobs simply because they pay well and can support our future family.
As we grow older we are influenced by others again, by our parents, by our friends and by our spouse. They can push us to take that high paying job or to go after something we have little passion for simply because they want to see us fit their own definition of success.
It’s not always bad, if someone is pushing you to become a Doctor and you truly feel passionate about helping others and curing diseases then having people support you and giving you that little push along the way can make life easier and give you the emotional strength you need to carry on.
But if you are moving in a direction that you don’t want to go simply because it is a path other people are pushing you towards then it may be time to take a step back and re-examine your life.
If you are heading down a road that leads to you working a lot and making a lot then you need to figure out if you are truly working for something that you are passionate about. You need to make sure you are not just getting up every morning and slaving away at a job you hate because of the large a paycheck..
Ask yourself, would you still be working at your job even if you didn’t need the money? It may sound bizarre that people would go to work even if they didn’t need the money, but it happens all the time.
Some of the most successful CEOs over the last few decades do not need the money. They have made so much already that working for money has lost all of its meaning, but many go to work anyways. They would work for free if they had to simply because running the company has gone from a job into a passion.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin became CEOs of Google and helped turn it into a large and reputable company while working for only $1 a year at the end of their career. The CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs has helped his company grow and become a world player in electronics while also working for $1 a year.
Obviously we can’t all afford to work for $1 a year, but ask yourself. If money wasn’t an object and you had all your bills paid, would you continue to stay at your job if it only paid you $1 a year?
If not, is there something else that you could say yes to that question with? Is it time for a career change? Or are you truly passionate about your work and not just working for the paycheck?
Ironically many of the people who follow their passion end up making more than people who work solely for the money. As they say, “follow your passion and the money will follow”
Living Life in General
Outside of money and career, do you live your life the way you want? Or do you let other people tell you how to live it? Have you chosen your own religion and political point of view? Or have they been picked for you by your family and friends?
Are the people you hang out with and the relationships you are in dictated by other people? Do you fear what other people would think of you if you went on a date with someone or tried something new?
Sometimes we let others have too much control over our lives and when we lose control, it is hard to get it back.
What Do You Truly Want?
If you think you may be living a life that is influenced too much by others then I have a great exercise you can do.
Take a step back and ask yourself what you want out of life. Don’t think about your current situation, instead take everything in your life off the table and start from a clean slate. Imagine you are the writer of your life and you could write anything you want, what would you say?
It doesn’t matter what situation you are in now or what other people say just use your imagination. Let it run wild! If you want to be making $10 million dollars a year and have a house on the beach put that down. If not think about what lifestyle you truly want to live.
Some things to consider would be
• Your Lifestyle – Do you want to be busy working on something you love and are passionate about? Or do you want to be laid back and have a lot of free time?
• How Much Money Do You Want To Make? – Do you want to make millions, or is money not that big of a deal for you as long as you have your basic needs met?
• What Kind Of Relationship Do You Want To Be In? – Do you want someone with their own goals and dreams? Or someone who will have more free time to nurture you?
• What Do You See Yourself Doing? – What career path do you see yourself in? How long do you work? Does it make you happy?
• What Will You Bring To The World? – How are you going to better the world, if at all? This can be as simple as being nice to others or as complex as building a new super computer with lighting fast processors.
Once you have a good idea of what you want out of life take a step back and ask yourself, “Am I heading in the right direction?” Are the steps you are taking now leading to the live you have imagined, or at least getting you close enough to it?
If they are then congratulations, at least you are heading in the right direction which is the first step to success.
If not, then it may be time to re-examine your life and see who is really living it.
Doing this exercise regularly can help you to see your life in a new light and make sure you don’t find yourself regretting the decisions you failed to make for yourself on your own death bed. After all, it is your life, make sure you are the one behind the steering wheel.