Here’s a game I like to play: Whenever I am struggling to make a difficult decision, allowing fear to prevent me from moving forward, or feeling generally dissatisfied with how I am choosing to live, I transport myself to my hypothetical last few moments of my life. I envision that my clock on Earth is counting down its final seconds. I allow myself to deeply immerse in the sensation of it’s all over. There is nothing ahead, only past…no more second chances, no tomorrow to complete unfinished business, and no re-do on regrets. Then, I playback the movie of my life and experience how that version of myself evaluates the story.
As dark and ominous of a game this may seem, I encourage everyone to play. It has been one of my greatest motivators for implementing positive change. You see, this version of yourself—the one with an incalculable understanding of how limited time on Earth truly is—has a freedom that present-day-you will likely never achieve. It is free from insecurity and unconcerned with the judgements of others. All of the things that prevented you from living fully throughout your life will instantly become meaningless.
Research supports this theory. Upon examining the choices and life events of men and women as they neared the end of their life, 5 common themes of regrets surfaced. Here is how they wished they had lived:
1. True to Myself
Most people feel that they live more for what others will think of them than what they will think of themselves. Sacrificing your own happiness or well-being so that you can abide to the cultural or familial expectations placed on you only leads to identity confusion and bitterness. LIVE AUTHENTIC TO YOU. No one else.
2. Worked Less
There is a no-refund-policy on time. And those who have learned this the hard way wish they had spent it doing something more meaningful than earning a paycheck.
3. Expressed Feelings
Connection to others, even for the most introverted of souls, is your lifeline on Earth. And only with genuine expression of emotions and feelings can you truly experience that connection. Don’t be afraid to say how you honestly feel. Doing so will lead you to the right people.
4. Staying Connected to Friends/Loved Ones
It is not easy to maintain every relationship you will create throughout your lifetime. On average, a person will connect with 10,000 people. But those 10,000 people will not stay in the same place, metaphorically or literally. People move. Jobs change. We grow older and often apart. But if someone is of significance to you, put in the energy and time to keep in touch.
5. Allowed for More Happiness
The “I will be happy when…” mentality will cheat you every time. When people reach the end of their life, they look back on the lost hours, days, or even years they foolishly dwindled believing that they needed to reach a certain destination in order to find happiness. But happiness cannot be lost, found, purchased, or sold—only manifested from within. Practice finding joy and pleasure in the present regardless of what has happened in the past or what your mind expects to happen in the future.
Written by: Aubrey Koel, LPC