Nurses in palliative care report that there is a pattern to the things people nearing the end of their lives regret. They won’t all apply to us, but among this list is surely at least one lesson for those of us with some time left – and that means everyone who is not going to die within the next few minutes.
I wish :
I’d had more time – it is important to experience the present fully, to savour the sights and smells and emotions and the laughter and words of our peers.
I hadn’t worried so much – in retrospect why did we make such a fuss a few years ago? The same will apply to today’s worries in the future.
I’d appreciated what I had. We can start doing this today.
I’d examined and eliminated more of my faults and learnt more wisdom. A spiritual approach to life, examining how we could have dealt with situations differently does not mean we have to be religious.
I’d spent more time with my family and friends rather than at work and recovering from fatigue.
I hadn’t taken myself so seriously – laughing at ourselves is a virtue.
I’d done more for others – helping others and sharing what life has given us, whether this be possessions or abilities, gives life meaning.
I could have felt happier – when we are at the end of our lives we realise happiness is a state of mind. Happiness is a choice.
I’d cared less what other people think. When we realise how little people think about us we are free to live our lives as we wish. How much do we think about other people’s choices? Would we be surprised if they were affected by our opinion? Being a people pleaser does not lead to personal fulfilment.
I’d taken more risks. Think of all the long dead people who lived their lives being very, very careful. Were they right? What if they had done something unusual instead? Which sort of person do we like to read about today?
I’d taken better care of myself. What would we be like today if we had started really looking after our health 30 years ago? Ignoring our health, particularly among men, is one of the top regrets.
I’d trusted my gut instead of listening to everyone else and followed my passion in life. Wishing we’d accomplished more is the most common regret of all. Unfulfilled dreams leave a bitter taste on the deathbed.
I’d worked less – financial success isn’t the key to a happy life. By simplifying life it is possible to live more and work less. How might I not need so much money? And if we hate our job, this is even more true.
I’d told him/her what I truly felt – for good or for bad, bringing closure and eliminating negative cellular memory, since bitterness and resentment can lead to disease. Even though the person’s reaction may be nuclear, it raises the relationship to a new, healthier level or allows the relationship to fade away
I hadn’t let good friendships slip and hadn’t hung on to friendships that had run their course out of a sense of duty or courtesy. The physical details of life slip away when we are faced with our mortality and we remember what people gave or took away from us.
I hadn’t got married early; as the years pass spouses often have different ideas of how their relationship should evolve. Everyone who gets out of a bad relationship regrets not getting out earlier.
I’d used sunscreen. 90% of wrinkles are caused by the sun.
I’d realised how good-looking I was. Let’s take a look at a photo of ourselves 20 years ago. Now what were we worried about?
I hadn’t held onto grudges. Waste of time. Let go and move on.
I’d stood up for myself. Saying ‘back off’, or if we can’t because it’s the boss, ‘that’s a very harsh comment’ eliminates endless replaying of injustices. This ability often comes with experience.
I hadn’t neglected my teeth. Floss, floss, floss.
It’s never too late to change. While we are still standing, let’s make a move. Imagine we’re on our death bed now – what life would we like to look back on?
And finally…in a TV interview he gave in his old age, poet John Betjeman was asked the conventional question: “Do you have any regrets?” Replied the poet: “Yes. I wish I’d had more sex.”