The key to a no regrets life

Recently I came across an article written by a woman who worked with patients who were in hospice care.  The article, Top Five Regrets of the Dying, outlined the summary of the patient’s response to her question about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently.  There were “common themes that surfaced again and again.”

Here is her list:
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 didn’t work 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.

Take a look at that list.  If you were given just months to live, how many of those would be on your regrets list?  My recent wake-up call with a thyroid cancer diagnosis brought this list up close and personal – too close for comfort actually. 

However, as I examined the list, thinking about each of these regrets as they relate to my life, I had a revelation.  I realized that if a person lived a life that was true to whom God had created them to be, none of the other regrets would exist.  In other words, the number one regret was at the top of the list for a reason.  It is really the key to a no regrets life.  If a person can truly resolve the number one regret, all the other regrets have the potential for being eliminated.  How’s that for a statement?

Let’s think about it.  Having the courage to live a life true to oneself is predicated upon knowing one’s true self.  It is my contention, as a Christian, that we cannot know our true self unless we have a relationship with the living God who created us.  The axiom “to thine own self be true” is therefore contingent upon seeing ourselves as God sees us.  Discovering the true person God has created us to be and living in accordance with it, is therefore the most important thing any of us can do.

Now, when a person lives true to themselves they will seldom if ever regret working so hard (Regret #2) because the life work they choose to do will be the work they love.  There is nothing more satisfying than working at something we were created to do.  The time flies, we feel fulfilled and invariably others are benefited.  

The security that comes in being true to oneself also enables a person to be honest in expressing their true feelings. (Regret #3)  They are not intimidated by what others might think and more confidently resolve relational conflicts.  They are comfortable just being themselves.

Busy lifestyles, out of alignment with our true selves, take a heavy toll on relationships. (Regret #4)  The value and nurture of friendships in our lives are too often sacrificed on the altar of the pursuit of career, status and money.  Having the courage to live a life true to oneself enables us to put right priorities on our relationships and not let them slip.

And finally, letting ourselves be happier (Regret #5) will naturally be resolved if the first four regrets are eliminated.  True happiness, fulfillment and meaning, all come most readily when we are living true to whom God has created us to be.

The reasoning above sounds a bit simplistic but when it gets right down to it, would you agree that being able to live a life that is true to whom God has created you to be could resolve all the other regrets?  I’d be interested to know what you think.

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8 thoughts on “The key to a no regrets life”

  1. Good article Tom. I have often regreted not going into acting or dance, my two two
    passions in my youth. I never really enjoyed my employment at the phone company but
    it did provide security and income for my family. Would I have found the Lord in New York?
    Or would I have gone into a decadent lifestyle? Would I still be married? Would we
    have adopted Luke and Paul, two joys in my life?
    I’ll never know the answers. I do know I have never been happier and have learned to
    express my feelings.

  2. The key to a no regrets life begins even before we arrive on this planet. It begins with others. There is no event on the planet more anticipated with excitement or dread than the birth of a child. How that child learns to react and interact with his own being and with others depends largely on how he is treated or mistreated by his or her family and friends. I say this primarily to bring to mind perhaps the most important reality regarding life and persons. They do not belong to us. They are not our property to do with as we like. We are not to mold them into some charicature of our choosing. They belong to the All Mighty. They are the work of His heart, His imagination and His hands. He has a purpose for each one. Our primary responsibility is to help each one understand, discover and reach their potential for Him. We are never to superimpose our puny desires or expectations upon others. Much unhappiness and failure would be removed from peoples relationships if they would only remember that we are not our own – we are bought with a price – a price that sets us free to be who God intended us to be – not who man intended us to be.


    I have a problem with this idealistic “in a perfect world” philosophy. In a world where jobs are at a premium and people are willing to do anything to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table this doesn’t fly. It also puts an unfare pressure or expectation on those who are not able to do “what they feel they were created to do” and who find themselves in less then perfect scenerios. What about those in 3rd world countries and even those in America who are in hard situations. Doesn’t it have to do more with an inner recognition and acknowledgement of who you are in Jesus and that is really all that matters.

  4. Bonnie – Thanks for your input on this topic. In the light of your comment about the “real world” experience of many working in non-ideal settings could that be why so many people regret working so hard. (#2 Regret above) Given the fact that many are not spending their working hours doing things they were created to do and love would account for so much regret around ones working life. The question remains, is this something people have a choice about? Ecclesiastes 3:22 says “So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot.” It would appear from this verse that with God’s help, that should be ones choice and lot in life. It may end up being a case of not so much doing what we love but learning with God’s help to love what we do. Tough issues for many to wrestle with. No easy answers.

  5. Candace – I appreciate your comment. Knowing whose we are is very much integral to finding fulfillment and happiness in this life. Especially when we realize how hard life can be at times. As you point out how others treat us, especially family members can greatly militate against coming to such a bedrock understanding. May the Lord be gracious in helping each of us come to place of knowing our love and acceptance in the love of His son, Jesus.

  6. Dave – Interesting reflections on life choices and how God has used them for your good and His glory. Your life is a great illustration of finding true happiness because of God’s intervention in your life and not because of career choices that you made. It illustrates the priniciple that seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness ultimately causes all things to work together for good. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Merrilee McMahon

    I too find that living your true passion as GOD created you to live, brings ABOUT A CONTINUAL JOURNEY OF LIVING AND LEARNING WHILE TIME TRULEY FLIES IN THE JOB. I never feel as if I am working as I am so passionate about what I do. I have truley been doing by job since I was very young and continue doing IT no matter where I am. GOD has graced me with my hearts desire as I look to HIM each day…..and believe me I have many people in my life that continuly try to correct, OR TEASE me in believing that it can’t or isn’t truely a job worth doing or persuing or of true value. I am a teacher, mentor, behavioral guidance specialist, and friend to many in need. I love helping with my hands and heart connected into one very great package….which only GOD can do through me. I have found without GOD first loving me I can NOT truly do my job. I have found it makes no difference what others think of me or my job title or location…I am where I am supposed to be according to the one who truly KNOWS ME. I love others only because HE first loved me….I will continue to pass this love on……..No matter the location in my life…I am truly blessed……I will live with no regrets……I AM LOVED

  8. Merrilee –
    Your love for the Lord and joy in serving Him and loving others no matter where you are is contagious. Thanks for sharing!

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