From the moment we’re born, there’s only one thing that each and every human being shares in common: we’re going to die and are moving closer to it with every passing day.
(Some might argue that taxes are another unavoidable commonality we all share, but there are ways for at least some of us to avoid paying them, just ask the super wealthy.)
That’s a pretty depressing way to start a blog post, right? True, but depressing.
Stick with me.
Before you cry a river in your bowl of cereal, consider this: there’s a lot of living to do before the day you die arrives. Since you don’t know when that day will be, doesn’t it make sense to make the most of the time you have?
Everyone gets 24 hours a day to spend how they choose. Sleeping and working take up a big chunk of those hours.
Let’s say, for example, you spend seven hours a day sleeping and eight hours working. That’s 15 hours per day spent doing things you need to do to survive. That leaves nine hours to spend at your discretion, but probably less once you figure in other things, such as showering, dressing, exercising, eating, commuting, etc..
Conservatively, you’ve got about six hours per day to spend outside of work, sleep, and other necessities. How you spend those six hours per day matters and will make a difference for your peace of mind when you’re about to leave this existence.
All That You Can’t Leave Behind
There’s a U2 song that exclaims, “I’m not afraid to die, I’m not afraid to live, and when I’m flat on my back, I hope to feel like I did.” Profound words.
Personally, I’ve spent a good amount of my life afraid of dying. The older I get, however, the less I’m afraid of the prospect. What intimidates me is the possible suffering that can lead up to that momentous life event.
The living part? I admit that I never spent much time in my younger years focusing on making the most out of life. Rather, I was too busy living in the moment and gave little, if any, thought to future regrets about how I spent my time.
Now, though, my spirit yearns to do the things of my youth that my body isn’t willing or able to do anymore. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still live life through worthwhile activities, it just means I have to put extra effort into doing them.
How do you spend your time? Is your smartphone your master? Is TV? While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these activities, they don’t have much lasting value.
Can you imagine, on your deathbed, thinking, “I wish I’d spend more time scrolling mindlessly through my news feed”? Or, “If only I’d binge-watched another show on Netflix”? Neither can I.
As it becomes evident you’re going to die, what do you think you’ll wish you’d done more of with your time on earth? Spent more quality time with family? Traveled more? Read books? There’s a long list of possibilities.
From Those Who Have Gone on Before
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who cared for dying patients during their final days, asked those under her care what their life regrets were. Here are the top five responses, in order of frequency expressed:
- 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.
Did any of those regrets strike a chord with you? Several touched my heart because they’re already regrets of mine. Fortunately, there’s a way not to have these regrets when your earthly journey ends.
Closing Thoughts and a Challenge
Spending more time doing things that matter will require you to change. Are you willing to make the adjustments, or are you content knowing that you’ll leave this life with painful regrets?
Because we’re imperfect and are prone to make mistakes, there’s no way to avoid all regrets, but we can significantly minimize the amount of regrets we have when it’s time to exit mortality.
You do this by assessing your regrets now, instead of later, then doing what you need to do to change them. Take an honest look at how you spend your time by keeping track of it in a journal for a few days. Doing this will make it evident where you need to make changes to avoid your biggest life regrets.
Are you up for the challenge? I’d love to hear your experiences with doing this exercise.