Are you making this common deathbed regret?

No one on their deathbed ever said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

Harold Kushner
[5-min read]

My grandfather passed away 15 years ago. But I remember him just as well as if I’d seen him last week.

He was an incredible man who achieved so much in his lifetime. It all started when he grew up running a humble general store with his dad and brothers. They managed to stay in business through the Great Depression.

He had a true entrepreneurial spirit.

With grit and determination, he turned that little shop into a thriving chain of grocery stores called Wrights’ Market. They served our community for over 50 years.

My grandpa was a pillar of our town — a respected leader in the community and in his church.

But when I think of him, it’s not his accomplishments that come to mind first. What I remember most is how he made me feel when we were together.

I remember the twinkle in his kind eyes as he shared stories from his past. His cheerful nature and authenticity shone through in every interaction.

He shared simple wisdom as we talked about life, always with humility and good humor. His stories were honest about the mistakes he made and how he went against the status quo to live his values.

He had a way of making me feel like the most important person in the world, even when I was just a young boy.

Looking back now, I understand that the true measure of my grandfather’s life wasn’t the empire he built or the titles he held. It was the love he gave so freely and the lives he touched so deeply along the way.

His legacy lives on. Not in the grocery stores that have long since closed their doors.

It’s in the cherished memories of those who knew him. In the stories we still tell. In the laughter we still share when we remember the remarkable man he was.

My grandfather taught me, without ever saying a word, what truly matters in the end.

  • The people we hold dear.

  • The experiences we fully embrace.

  • The moments of joy, connection, and meaning.

Because in the final accounting, it’s not the years we live that matter most. It’s how much we truly live in those years. Just like my grandfather did.

Top Regrets from the Deathbed (and how to avoid them)

Many people face their final days with regrets about how they lived. 5 of the most common regrets include:

  1. Not spending enough time with loved ones: People often wish they had prioritized relationships over work.

  2. Not expressing feelings: Many regret not sharing their true feelings, leading to unresolved conflicts and unfulfilled relationships.

  3. Not living a life true to yourself: Instead of following their own dreams, people regret living a life others expected of them.

  4. Not taking more risks: Looking back, people wish they had taken more chances, whether in their career, travels, or relationships.

  5. Not letting themselves be happier: Many realize too late that happiness was a choice and regret spending too much time on worries and complaints.

Here’s an infographic I created on this theme, inspired by a famous meme. Click the image to get a high-res PDF version.

Making It Work for You

Understanding these common regrets can guide you to make better choices now. Here are some practical ways to work toward a no-regrets life:

  • Prioritize your relationships: Make regular time for family and friends. Schedule it on your calendar and treat it like you would an important meeting.

  • Express your feelings openly: Don’t wait to tell people you love them or to sort out misunderstandings.

  • Follow your own path: Tune into what you really want from life. Find at least a few minutes every day to take steps toward your personal goals.

  • Take calculated risks: Whether it’s a career move or an adventure, don’t let fear hold you back.

  • Choose happiness: Focus on the positive, practice gratitude, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Diving Deeper

Want to explore more about living fully and avoiding regrets? Here are 3 of my favorite resources:

Book: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. It shares profound insights from those at the end of their lives, as well as the changes they wished they’d made.

Podcast: The Art of Happiness with Arthur Brooks. It explores how to be happier in your daily life by understanding the science and philosophy behind it.

Documentary: Happy explores what makes people happy across cultures and how you can find true happiness in your life.

These resources can help you understand and apply the principles that lead to a fulfilling life free from regrets.

Connecting the Dots

My grandfather knew the importance of moments spent, more than minutes worked.

His legacy wasn’t in his business achievements, but in the love he spread and the community he built.

His life reminds me that at the end of our days, we’ll recount the laughter, the love, and the lives we’ve impacted more than anything else.

Until next time, live deeply and love freely.