During the six years I spent as a hospice social worker, I had the privilege of listening to my patients review the highs and lows of their lives during their final days. During this time, the amazing beings I worked alongside were often very clear about what they felt really mattered in the grand scheme of things.
As they reflected upon their lives, they shared their triumphs and acknowledged their regrets, often dissecting the misguided choices that led to them. Their stories taught me how important it is to make the most of every day and choose the paths that lead to unparalleled passion and fulfillment.
My dying patients shared many disappointments with me, but none of them ever expressed the following regrets:
1. “I wish I had spent more time working.”
Work is important (after all, no one is exempt from paying the bills), but it’s certainly not the most important aspect of life. Work commitmentsconsume at least one-third of most people’s daily routines, and spending more time working leaves less time for what really matters: family and personal passions. Our jobs will go on when we depart this world, and someone else will take over our duties. But our loved ones will never replace us. Spend your time where it really counts.
2. “I wish I hadn’t allowed myself to fall in love.”
Anyone who’s ever been in love knows that there’s no better feeling in the world. Falling in love makes us feel vulnerable, but that vulnerability creates strong feelings of connection, trust, and intimacy. Lennon and McCartney knew what they were talking about when they said it’s all we need. Allow yourself to love with all your heart — it’s worth the risk.
3. “I wish I had spent more time on my computer and watched more TV.”
Staring at a screen can definitely be fun at the time, but getting out there and experiencing life is so much more rewarding. Instead of sending a text message or communicating on social media, consider having more face-to-face conversations that allow you to enjoy human contact and socialization. A real hug feels much better than a virtual one.
4. “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my loved ones.”
Share your life and time freely with the people who matter to you and let them know how important they are. Kiss your spouse, play with your kids, call your mom, and have lunch with your friends. Spending time with those you love creates memories you will cherish for your entire life.
5. “I wish I had played it safe.”
No one has ever fulfilled a dream by staying inside a self-imposed comfort zone. Risk-taking makes life far more interesting and exciting. Take the opportunity to do one thing that scares you every day. Give yourself that little push, and enjoy the sense of aliveness that comes with pursuing the unknown.
6. “I wish I hadn’t taken care of myself.”
Gautama Buddha once said, “Your body is precious. It is your vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” We are given one body to last an entire lifetime, and we have an obligation to treat it well. Get plenty of sleep so that you will wake up each morning feeling rested and open to adventure. Stay fit and look to nutritious foods for fuel so you can have the strength to live life to the absolute fullest.
7. “I wish I had lounged in my easy chair more often.”
Go outside and smell the fresh air, listen to the sound of the wind, and look up at the night sky. Go take a walk in the woods and enjoy the stillness you feel when alone in nature. Beauty constantly surrounds us. There is a colorful world for you to behold, and you can’t do it from your living room.
8. “I wish I hadn’t followed my dream.”
Pope John XXIII said, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustration but your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do.” No one benefits when you play it small. You’ve got one life — make the most of it by discovering your purpose and living it fully.
I promise, you will never regret it.