It is common for men to question their existence. Mostly this inner contemplation occurs when the realization sets in that their life has stagnated. The realization that their life has lost its hope and promise.
This must be an awful realization.
A realization that I cannot relate to because I have designed my life, my entire existence, around something opposite: the cultivation of hope.
I am always doing something that promises a better future for myself. I have a deeply ingrained desire to continuously become better and most importantly, I almost never happy with the results that I have.
It seems like there can be lots of problems living this way. People will say things like obsession, depression, and burnout.
These things don’t concern me at all.
Because I understand what the alternative is. I look around and I see the alternative every day. Men that have lost their way. Men that have lost the desire to keep moving forward.
But my thoughts are starting to shift to an even bigger, more universal realization.
The only fate that all men share: death.
It is the one thing that we all move towards. Is it the final destination of your living being and it doesn’t care about your existential existence. When we reach this eventuality, the regrets will be the toughest to bear.
There will be things we should have done. Things that we could have done. But usually, they are just things that we didn’t do.
Read More: The Pain of Regret
I just read this article on Aubrey Marcus’s blog, that kind of spurred this entire thought within me. If death comes to all of us, why do we still have regrets?
Why aren’t we all living a life of truth?
Why aren’t we living a life that is true to ourselves? Why aren’t we fulfilling our purpose or chasing our wildest desires?
A life focused and determined.
The blog post uncovered the top five regrets from those lying on their death beds. Those that could no longer choose to make a change or make a difference. If we were to look at these regrets, then maybe we can garnish some insight into what we should be doing now.
LIVING A LIFE OF TRUTH
Regret #1: I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Follow your heart and do what makes you happy. When you’re lying there, about to die, it doesn’t matter if you made other people happy. It doesn’t matter if you followed the advice from your parents or your friends. Or if you played it safe.
It does matter if you did what you wanted. If you went all-in. If you took some chances and lived a life full of satisfaction and excitement.
Regret #2: I wish I didn’t work so hard.
9-5 x 30.
That’s eight hours a day of work times 30 years. Its no wonder why people regret “working” so hard. Just typing it out and reading it is sorrowing.
I like what Marcus says here, “Humans like to work. We thrive in it. The problem isn’t the work, it is what we are working for. When we are working in alignment with our mission and our vocation (our purpose and unique expression) work is an enjoyable part of life. When our mission includes our own happiness, as all good missions should, then we will naturally strike the balance between when to sacrifice and when to sip the nectar of life. Or chug it.”
Regret #3: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
The worldviews of society begin to shape us at an early age. We begin to hold things back and to not speak our mind. Often times, this behavior is critical for survival in this society — it is necessary for success. But oftentimes, this just means that we aren’t putting ourselves out there.
Men often feel this regret when meeting a girl for the first time. We let the fears of what may happen overtake our desire to approach. We deny ourselves the opportunity because of the fear of rejection. A fear that is borne out of societal norms and one that is completely unjustified. It is normal to fail and to have feelings of embarrassment at times.
It is also normal to be lying on your deathbed wishing that you had to courage to express your feelings. Pick your poison.
Regret #4: I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I’ve come to think of Facebook as a mask for true connection. I have friends that I have been on Facebook with for years that I know nothing about. Yet, I have one good friend that doesn’t use Facebook and we routinely connect. It takes a lot to forge a deep, meaningful relationship and that effort usually goes unspent. Spend that little bit of extra energy and create connections that are meaningful and long-lasting.
Regret #5: I wish I had let myself be happier.
Take ownership of your emotions.
I wish I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish.
BUT there is a way to avoid all of the wising while you are lying there. It is as simple as doing what you want — finding something to be obsessive about. Not passionate, but obsessive.
It is to build your character, as Joan Didion writes, “Character- the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life- is the source from which self-respect springs.”
To build your character is to build discipline, “Self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag.”
1. Take Ownership
2. Become Obsessive