We all want to know at the end that our lives counted for something—that we can rest satisfied and fulfilled at the path we chose to walk. I think that is probably the reason why this article (Top Five Regrets of the Dying) continues to be one of the most viral posts on the Internet.
Nobody wants to reach the end of their life and experience regret. Instead, we desire to experience satisfaction with the one life we’ve been given. We desire to live a story that is worth being retold.
Unfortunately, our world has made it too easy to experience the opposite. Our society has championed pursuits that often fade. We spend our lives pursuing them, but have little to show at the very end. And too many, in this scenario, experience regret at the lives they chose to live.
Rarely is the easy path the wisest path. And just because a pursuit has become common to those around us does not mean it results in a desired end. Consider these 9 common ways to become unsatisfied with life:
Focus entirely on yourself. The size of our universe shrinks considerably when we place ourselves at the center. And the people who are most focused on themselves are the least satisfied in life. On the other hand, those who see their life as an opportunity to bring joy to others quickly find it themselves.
Treat money as the goal. Personal wealth is promoted and encouraged at every turn in our society—as if becoming rich is the ultimate goal any of us could achieve. I am certainly not against working hard and being compensated for your talents. But I am against viewing money as the goal of our life… or even the goal of the day in front of us. Too often, we pursue it at the expense of more satisfying things.
Make pleasure your chief concern. Related to the pursuit of money, our greatest contributions are often sacrificed because we pursue pleasure instead (or comfort and luxury which are closely related). We sacrifice long-term resources in order to experience short-term pleasure. Certainly there could be a strong argument made that a satisfying life is a pleasurable one, but we are too quick to settle for short-term, temporal pleasure rather than one that results from a life lived with purpose and intention.
Blame everybody else. Blame is far too prevalent in our world. We blame our parents, our spouses, our employers, our teachers, our government, our upbringing, our environment, and our financial condition (just to name a few). We blame others for our faults and our unhappiness. And every time we do, we lose. Because the decision to blame others for our shortcomings will always keep us from making the changes in our lives that are so desperately needed.
Be defined by your negative circumstances. Jack Kornfield once said, “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” This is an important truth and an important promise. Our lives are not ultimately defined by the negative circumstances that happened in our past. They may have affected the trajectory of our lives, but they do not write the final chapter. We hold the pen.
Hide your true self. There is little to be gained in living a life of inauthenticity. Not only is it unfair to those around us, it is also unfair to us. Those who live openly and honestly, recognizing and admitting their weaknesses and faults inspire others to do the same. And in the end, all that is gained is true and honest and strangely satisfying.
Allow pride to guide you. Pride is far more subtle an influence on our life than we realize. And it is often a byproduct of success—success in almost any endeavor. But pride always steers us incorrectly. It refuses the opportunity to learn from others and be influenced by them. It keeps us in bondage to the limited vantage point of our experience.
Miss the journey for the destination. Ursula K. LeGuin said it like this, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Too often, we live our lives from destination to destination. We look back and mark the significant accomplishments as the milestones that define our lives: a graduation, a new job, a move, or overcoming a tragedy. But life is not lived exclusively in these destinations. In fact, it is far more often lived in the pathways between them. Appreciate the joy in the journey rather than always hurrying to the next destination.
Carry more than you need. Every excess is added burden to our lives. And yet we continue to pursue and accumulate more than we need—more house, more car, more clothes, more dishes. Owning less means less cleaning, less burden, less anxiety, and less stress each and every day. It provides the space and opportunity to pursue the things in life that matter—the very items that bring lasting satisfaction to our lives.
Only a fool believes the wide road is necessarily the right road. Finding a life of lasting satisfaction and fulfillment is rarely found looking in the same places as everyone else. Leading a happy life requires an entirely different story to be written.