No regrets

What can we learn from other people’s regrets?

I recently shared a link to Buster Benson’s post The death bed game in which he presents a list of top five regrets of the dying:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

I’m not sure whether this is Buster’s own list, sourced from anecdotes or somewhere else. Wherever it comes from, it’s not too disimilar from the early findings of Dan Pink’s survey on regret. A few thousand readers of Pink’s newsletter responded with their age and the answer to the question: Looking back on your life from the present moment, what is one significant regret you have?

There are a couple of points I want to pull out from the summary of responses:

Respondents overwhelmingly regretted things they didn’t do rather than things they did.

I think this is interesting when we think about decision making and the “what if…” fear that often prevents us from doing things. When I think back to the time I was making the big decision to leave the safety of full time employment I distinctly remember saying to anyone who would listen that I’d regret not trying.

People regretted living someone else’s life rather than being true to themselves.

This is a big one. I talk to a lot of people who are battling the pull of what they think they should do, or what they feel is expected of them, over what they actually want to do. How do we challenge that and find the confidence and courage to walk our own path?

A sentence from this week’s Thought Shrapnel article on the fear of missing out (FOMO) stuck in my mind and feels relevant here:

“The solution to FOMO is to know who you are, what you care about, and the difference you’re trying to make in the world.”

I wonder if that’s the solution for avoiding regrets too. What do you think?

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