For many years I didn’t experience death in my life. But just a few years ago death seemed to be common. My grandparents were all reaching their ’80s and they began to pass away.
Just the natural course of life.
For most of my life others have commented that I’m pretty quiet and reserved. I think that’s accurate. I like being in my own head and thinking about life. I also like that being quiet allows me to listen to others. Not necessarily me asking questions and others providing answers, but me being quiet and just listening to what others say.
One of my first jobs was working in the pro shop at a country club. There were a number of older members and they would often look for an ear so they could share their feelings on a life well lived. And as my grandparents aged they also shared some of their thoughts on life.
As I think back now I thought I’d share some of the regrets people have as they reach their later years…
This was a theme that seemed to come up often. Most people that I’ve been around didn’t come out and say necessarily that they wished they would have worried less during their lives, but they would imply it.
For example, one person that spoke to me once in that pro shop came in to say that they used to really worry about the future of their business. He was an attorney. He said that it had all worked out and that these days he doesn’t really worry much about anything.
There seems to be a realization in many older people that much of what we worry about doesn’t come true. If there is something that can prevent something then we’ll do it. If not, why worry about it anyway?
2. Not Having Enough Fun
I was listening to these two guys talking in the pro shop one day. They seemed to be pretty good buddies. For some reason the one guy was thinking back on life and he mentioned that one thing he would do if he could live all over again was to party more.
The other guy just about spit out the Pepsi he was sipping on. He told the guy that they would have to put more days in the week to allow for the first guy to party more. Apparently he had already had a lot of fun in his life.
But the takeaway for me was that most of us like to have fun. And in our own ways. Whatever that is, do more of it.
3. Not Doing What I Loved Doing Enough
This could be work. It could also be a hobby or some kind of sport. It kind of builds on the previous point about not having enough fun. If you really enjoy doing something then schedule the time to do it. It’s a great point in your life to be self aware of what you enjoy doing because once you realize it you can do it as much as possible. Why not?
4. Caring What Others Thought Of Them
By the time you’re reaching your later years the people that you let control your actions and thoughts are usually dead. This seems to provide a kind of freeing realization for most people. But it can also lead to resentment, anger and frustration. And those are obviously related to regret.
It seems common with parents. People often do what they think their parents want them to do. But in doing so they live a life that is not entirely theirs. Then they wonder what might have been.
It also seems common with spouses. It can be wonderful to give yourself and your life to another person, but it seems that some people regret doing so in a way that leaves them lacking something that they wanted to do.
5. Trying To Control Too Many Situations
There are very few things that we control in life. This kind of relates to worry. When we worry about life we often try to control too many situations. That can drive us crazy and it can also drive those around us crazy. It can lead to anxiety. It can lead to disappointment.
6. Being Too Hard On Themselves
People often seem to be harder on themselves than they are with others. If their friend loses a job they try to raise up their spirits. But if they lose a job themselves they beat themselves up for being useless.
Give yourself a break. If you have good intentions then things will mostly work out just fine. No need to make yourself feel bad if you’re trying to do what you believe is right.
7. Trying To Change People
Most people will figure things out on their own and in their own time. The more you try to change people the more you’ll push them to resenting you. It takes discipline to let others be. To let them live their life while you live yours.
8. Losing Curiosity For New Things
This is a subtle one that I’ve noticed over the years. As we get older there is a tendency to want to feel wise. To want to share advice. But those that seem most fulfilled and happy are those that are curious about things. They ask questions. They even ask questions of younger people. Even those that have much less experience.
I heard a great interview with golf instructor Butch Harmon recently. He’s been teaching golfers for decades and he’s over 70 years old, but he still looks to learn from his students. He mentioned that while he was teaching Rickie Fowler, that Rickie was hitting a really unique chip shot. Butch stopped what he was telling Rickie and asked him how he was hitting the shot. Then Butch started practicing the shot himself.
9. Not Understanding What Was Most Important To Them
We got into this one a bit earlier. Understanding what is most important to you is an incredible gift in life. It seems to be becoming more difficult today with our minds constantly stimulated by our phones. We don’t have time to think about life and what we really appreciate.
When we get old we have time to ponder life. We think about what we haven’t done. We wonder what could have been. We start to realize what is important to us.
If you realize what’s important to you then you should be making time to experience it as much as you can.
10. Not Understanding What Was Most Important To Loved Ones
The Golden Rule, treat others how you want to be treated, is actually wrong in my view. It should be that we treat others as they want to be treated. That’s something that many people seem to realize as they get older.
Take some time to observe those that are important to you. Your spouse. Parents. Kids. Friends. Pay attention to what is important to them. Work, hobbies and more. When you know what’s important to your loved ones you can really allow them to be happy and you can give them the happiness they want.
Obviously the takeaway here is that there is still plenty of time to make changes. If you’re thinking that you might regret something on your deathbed there is no reason that you can’t make a change now. I actually find it beneficial to think about death from time to time. It allows you to think about what you’re doing now that isn’t making you happy or fulfilled.