When you die, what do you think you’ll regret?
I doubt you will regret the risks you took. I even doubt you’ll regret the risks you took that ended in failure. By now, I imagine you’ve seen this article. Here are the top five regrets listed by the nurse. She says that people tell her
- I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
- I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The article ends with this question:
What's your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?
What do you think about the list? What do you think about the question at the end? The truth is that we are all dying. The breath you just took while you read this is one breath closer to death. The breaths I took while writing this all move me closer to death. In fact, I am probably closer to death than I am to my birth.
What are we doing with the time we have? I fear that too many of us are always playing it safe. We’re trying to write risk and danger out of our story. Or we are chasing plot lines that just don’t matter. We’re creating a life that we would never want turned into a movie. We’re just moving along chasing the next dollar, the next fancy car, the next “thing” that will make us happy. We’re missing out on the truth that true satisfaction will probably require us to go through unhappy times and then learn how to let that go.
Our life will not be better because we avoid risks. True courage requires the presence of fear. Fear usually comes from risk. The other day I asked what you were willing to pay for what you wanted. Today, I want to ask what are you willing to risk for it?
I thought about this truth today as I was waking up. When my eyes first opened, I literally had a list of around thirty things that had to get done today. Then my wife’s eyes opened and she smiled at me as she snuggled into me. A few moments later, my youngest crawled into bed and snuggled into my wife. Then my middle daughter came and snuggled into me. Big brown eyes looking up at me just chattering away.
My list kept running in my head.
My daughters thoughts kept running out of her mouth to my head like a sweet Italian opera. I lay there with an invisible war waging in my mind. List or daughter?
Daughter or list?
Snuggle or write?
Write or Snuggle?
Life or money?
School or Life?
Certainly part of my struggle was my own poor planning and being behind in school. But that’s part of this question, isn’t it? What do you we do when the pressure is really on? Will my grades really matter to my daughter in ten years? When she is seventeen and the idea of snuggling her dad isn’t even on her radar, will the paper I write today really matter to her or me?
I doubt it.
Will the time she spent snuggling into me telling me about her classmates and school and her iTouch even be remembered?
In truth, it probably will not be remembered. But the culmination of my choices will be remembered. I refuse to die, worrying that I chose my career aspirations over my children.
The real question I want to ask you is what values will you live by in the time between today and the day you die?
Those values will direct and be revealed by your actions. I guarantee it.
May we all live in such a way that regret is not found on our death bed.