Nobody ever says on their deathbed...

I see lessons about life couched in deathbed terms all the time. Just search “deathbed” and you’ll see endless lessons about what’s really important in life.

It got really ramped up with the beloved 2012 book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. The regrets (as recorded by a nurse) were:

  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 that I had let myself be happier.

What problem could I possibly have with a lesson like this?

I think you’ll have these same regrets to some degree no matter how much more you “live your best life.” (Not to mention that you probably shouldn’t be interrogating someone about their regrets while they're dying.)

Regret is a cancer. But so is worrying about your future regrets.

Living as close to the present as you possibly can and being grateful is how you guard against regret. It’s an inward journey untied to external accomplishments (the “I wish I would have…" regrets). It helps if you start today, but it also helps if you start on your “deathbed.” And it’s really all we have.

Of course, be with friends more and work less. That’s smart. But don’t expect immunity from regret afterwards.

If you want something “deathbed”-proof, gratitude and being present are about the best tools we have. If you want something death-proof, you’ll have to talk to Tarantino.