“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.”
– Mercedes Lackey
In life, change is constant, and time is infinite. However, with living things in the equation, we are the “Y” variable, and sooner or later, we hit the “zero” mark when we run out of time. Death is a certainty for us. It’s only a matter of time, and pending that time, how well we can say we’ve lived our lives is from the fewer regrets we have when we are in our final moments.
Our regrets are birthed from the things we did and the things we didn’t do, but more often, our regrets in life, and even on the death bed, originate from the things we didn’t do when we had the opportunity, and the question is why? Why do we regret more the things we didn’t do than the things we did, especially when we are running out of time?
The thing is, for every decision in front of you to make, the possibilities of the outcome are endless. The moment you choose or decide to do something about it, the outcome becomes 50–50 in terms of failure or success, and based on one’s perception, one might yet take even an outcome of undesirable results as a win. Examples are cases where we learn from our failures. Another plus-side to making choices is closure; you get the satisfaction of leaving no stone unturned.
However, suppose you failed to make that decision when the opportunity presented itself. In that case, the regret is often more devastating than that of decisions that didn’t yield positive outcomes because of the endless possibilities that that venture could have been successful in varying magnitudes. Or the fact that it later became a success for others who ventured into that same thing, when you chose not to because they seemed to be too risky, becomes a lifelong depression-causing regret that makes the headlines of guilt in your final moments.
But hey, if your life is already full of such regrets, no qualms. On the bright side, you are not the only one with such a track record for choices; many people are. You can also start working on reducing the number of such regrets by changing your lifestyle once you start living more for yourself than for what other people or society might think about your decisions. Once you start taking those risks, instead of leaving outcomes to the unknown, you start getting more closure, the first step to having peace of mind and fewer regrets.
By the way, if you want to think deeper on this, Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Guess what, those were her findings:
- 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.
Take a good deep breath now, and try to list yours. You still have time to change!