We’re always aware, in varying degrees, of the fact that our time on this planet is short. Our days our numbered but luckily for most of us we’re blissfully ignorant of just how long we have left. The mantra “live every day as if it’s your last” has been constantly repeated to the point that it is now lost in a sea of saccharine visuals on Pinterest, begrudgingly reminding so many of us that we gave up on our carpe diem dreams long ago and are going to have to live with the fact that if this day really is our last, our final hours were spent like every other foolish sod caught up in the rain-sodden rat race.
I’m the same. I know I should live every day as if it’s my last, but that’s just not practical. Of course I want to swan off in the direction of Heathrow airport and spend my modest savings on a one-way ticket to South America but I can’t. I have commitments and a career to build and I might live until I’m 85 so I’ve got plenty of time for South America – right?
This is the argument I have with myself every time I question what I’m doing, but the other day, after having a conversation that really did pull the rug from under my feet, I asked myself the question: what would I regret I hadn’t done if I was told I had just months to live? For a moment, I was able to put myself in the shoes of someone who was faced with that life-altering proposition and it caused a knot to tighten in my stomach: I’m not ready to go anywhere – I haven’t achieved so many of the things on ‘my list’.
It’s easy to bob along, taking each day as it comes and keeping all other goals and dreams at arm’s length, just out of reach because you’ll be able to achieve them “one day”. But then death comes knocking, aggressively, and you realise how fragile, short and totally random life is. We’re not in control of it, no matter how much we kid ourselves otherwise.
This article on Business Insider about the most common regrets of the typical American, the sources ranging from love to career to family to education to health, is a thought-provoking piece. It reminds those of us who have the gift of time on our side – whether we’re 24 or 54 – to make the most of what we have and, more importantly, grab life by the balls.
It stirs emotions because nobody wants regrets. This life is short and unpredictable and we simply haven’t done it justice if we waste any of it not doing something that makes us happy or being with the person or people we care about. Doing something that makes us happy doesn’t mean your entire career or full-time job has to be the thing you’re obsessed with – it means that you make time for your passion because it fulfils you and without it, you’re not living the very best life you could be. It’s about evening classes and part-time study if you missed out on getting a university degree first time around or because you made the wrong choice in what you originally studied.
Above all, it’s about having the balls to try. We’re not going to succeed at everything we do in life: no one has the perfect relationship, marriage, family, job, exam results, figure, diet – but we can all succeed at trying. Do your best. Go after what you want with absolutely no hesitation or trepidation and always, always, always make time for the things that matter. That was the message I got from the Business Insider article. Time is precious. Spend it wisely, don’t waste it on worrying about trivial matters or worse, money (easier said than done of course), and lavish it on the people and activities that bring you happiness.
Wasting time is life’s biggest regret.