How to avoid regrets on your deathbed

Summer 2014 463 (2).png

How to avoid regrets on your deathbed


There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about the regrets that people come to realize when they are on their death bed. There comes a time, when all that you are able to do is look back and reflect on your life and the choices you made. You spend your final days, weeks or months looking back at what went right, and what went wrong in your life.

For most, they experienced extreme clarity and wisdom upon looking back on their lives and formed regrets on how they lived life. A palliative nurse was counseling the dying during their last few days on earth, and she documented the top regrets she heard from those at the end of their lives.

You can read the full article here, Top five regrets of the dying.

But something I did notice, was that people do not regret the things they did in life, but they regret the things they didn’t do…

“No one on his deathbed ever said, I wish I had spent more time on my business.”
-Paul Tsongas

In this post, I will go through the top 5 regrets experienced by people on their deathbed and hope to give you some tips on how to avoid such regrets when your time comes. These are just the main regrets, and while I am not saying you won’t still feel some regrets, hopefully, this will prevent the biggest ones.


I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself,
not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people reached the end of their life, they had time to reflect back on the lives they had and deeply regret not being true to themselves and what they really wanted to do in life. They wished they hadn’t just done what everyone told them they needed to do and would have rather had the courage to follow their hearts.

Falling into this trap is very common. It’s terribly unfortunate, but alas it is most common for people to do. We always deep down inside knows what our hearts want, but many fail to listen to it and instead does what everyone else thinks is the “best” way to live. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to as well, and even though it may have worked well for others, doesn’t guarantee it’ll work for you.

How to avoid:

  • Learning to listen to that voice inside is very important in order to not feeling regrets on your deathbed.
  • Taking a chance on yourself and spending some time getting to know yourself,
    read: Why getting to know yourself is so important in life
  • Once you know who you truly are inside, (hint you are not your name) you will realize exactly what you need to do in life, and the path will unfold for you naturally.
  • Learning to quiet the mind through meditation, or by other peaceful activities such as yoga or going on nature walks. By doing so, you will be able to hear your inner self-speak, and what it truly wants for your life, and it wants whats best for you! Its never too late to start! Even if you just started painting, like you’ve always wanted to do, then do it! You never know what could happen until you try!

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

This one was mostly said by men, wishing they had spent more time with their families or more time doing the things they loved instead of working their days away at the office. They wished they hadn’t worked so many hours overtime, missing countless family dinners, birthdays, special events, etc. Women also said this, but not as often as men do to the fact that women were usually at home with the babies during that era. Spending too much time working is, of course, a common regret, which can be avoided with an opened mind. We are after all conditioned to think that we need to work (this much) in order to feel accomplished, or successful in life… This belief we hold is so limiting because by spending all your time at work, you don’t have the time then to do the things in life that make you happy, thus causing regrets at the end….

How to avoid:

  • Don’t work so much. Its easier said than done I know, but realizing that this is a very common regret amongst people must make you prompt the question why…? Why do people regret working so much? Maybe when you get to the end of your life, you realize that all that time you spent working in order to afford a fancy car, or a nice home filled with a bunch of nice stuff was all useless now. It’s all meaningless, you don’t take it with you when you die. You realize that you’ll never get the time back from work, and you can miss so many wonderful experiences in life by having to work a rigid schedule.
  • Find out your true passions in life, and then do them instead of working. Then you will never feel like you worked a day in your life because you felt like you were playing!
  • Realize that you don’t need millions of dollars to be “happy” as I learned while reading this book: Book Review: Playing the matrix Happiness is the most important thing we should strive for in life, above all else.
  • Practice living minimally, that way you do not have to work so damn much to pay for all your stuff because you won’t have much! Cut back on life’s little luxuries, so that you can afford to not spend so many hours of time behind the desk. You will realize that at the end of your day you didn’t even miss your Starbucks drink, or $15 lunch, and you greatly enjoyed being able to get out of work an hour earlier to go for an afternoon walk at the park. You don’t always need to spend money to be happy, after all, its the little things in life.


I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppress how they feel inside in order to please others, and not cause any conflict, or because they are scared what someone might think of them. By doing so, they end up settling for mediocracy and following the herd,  never allowing themselves to reach the potential they are truly capable of. Before they know it, illness starts taking over because of all the negativity they’ve kept bottled inside and they begin going downhill from there.

How to avoid:

  • Courage is not something you obtain, its something you have had inside you all along, you just need to remember this, and go find the courageous you.
  • When you begin to learn about yourself, you begin to form truths about who you are, and when you start to build your life on the foundation of your truth, you realize that you have the courage to express your true feelings to others.
  • March to the beat of your own drum, and don’t let others hold you back because they will certainly try…. People don’t like to see others advance and progress through life, which is why you will lose people along the way. They won’t like the new you, and that’s okay because you are living true to yourself, and that’s all that matters.
  • The best thing you can do is help them realize they too are living life all wrong, and show them the way to a more fulfilling life where you can be whoever you want to be.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Everyone misses their friends when they are dying, it’s a very common regret amongst everyone. Many people become so caught up in the day to day tasks and deadlines that they put their old friends on the side burner and never manage to pick the relationship back up. People often realize the true power of friendship only when it is already too late, and they spend their final moments wishing they hadn’t lost them over the years.

How to avoid:

  • No matter how busy your life gets, which if you have been following along, working too much is also a big regret, but no matter how busy it gets always make time for lifelong friends.
  • If they don’t reach out to you, reach out to them first. I am sure they are living their lives waiting for you to call them, and you’re waiting for them to call you. Make the first move and reconnect! You’ll be happy you did, and better yet, you won’t regret this one in your final days.
  • True lifelong friends are hard to come by, so making time for the ones you have in your life will give you a peace of mind, and also aids in loneliness which is a big problem when we reach old age. Even having one true friend will be a benefit.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Ah, there it is, happiness. A huge issue for a lot of people because it’s so open-ended. Happiness is a mysterious thing that people strive for all their lives, saying oh once I get such and such, then I’ll be happy. So they wait, and wait, and wait, and finally, they get what they wanted, and they feel happy for a week or two, and then they sink right back down into the hole. Happiness is not something you can buy, it’s not something that someone can give you, its something that you must find on your own, and the wonderful thing about happiness is you can be happy anywhere you want in the world, and in cases which some would call extreme suffering. Happiness is a state of mind, which means it doesn’t rely on outside factors. It’s something you can be at any moment throughout the day, regardless of how much money you have in the bank, or if you are in a loving relationship.

How to avoid:

  • Don’t fall into the trap that so many have fallen into over the years, the comfort zone is a sticky trap that can be very hard to crawl out of. Ask yourself, what would make you happier in your daily life and then work towards that state. (Note, do not use money as a thing that will make you happier, or any material possessions for that matter. Find happiness in things that cannot be taken away from you)
  • Don’t fall into the trap that fear has strategically laid out if you manage to lose your fear of death (which you will once you lead a fulfilling life) you will realize that there is absolutely nothing to fear, other than fear itself.
  • Happiness is a state of mind, it is a choice. You can either choose to be happy or unhappy. There is no crime in being happy, sure some might think you’re strange for being so happy, but honestly who cares? We are all headed to the same place, so why not enjoy the journey now before its too late!? Go and be the happy, positive, full of life person you were born to be!

That’s all folks! I am sure there are more regrets people face on their deathbed, but I just took the top 5 regrets. I hope you found this useful and you will start or continue to strive towards living a great life! When you reach the inevitable deathbed, you won’t be full of regrets, but full of great memories and experiences about how you broke the mold and starting living life on your own terms!

“The best way to deal with death is to live in a
fully conscious, compassionate, loving way.
Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to recognize that
this is the only way to live.”

-Morrie Schwartz


Other posts you might enjoy!

How to overcome Self-doubt

8 steps to living a better life

Why you need to believe in yourself

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