Updated 02 March 2016

What will you regret one day?

When people have end-of-life regrets, they often are being very hard on themselves, says Susan Erasmus.

We all have 20/20 hindsight. When it comes to looking back at one’s life as one nears the end of it, there will always be things one regrets.  Many of these have to do with being true to oneself, expressing feelings more readily, and letting oneself be happier. These three things are actually closely connected.

But we have to be fair to ourselves: we did what we did at the time because it looked like the best thing to do in that situation with the information we had at our disposal. Sometimes expressing what we feel might do quite a lot of damage. There are also times in our lives when external pressures are enormous and not everyone has it in themselves to withstand those. That doesn’t make one a bad person.

I don’t need to tell you that life is a complicated thing and that we are often torn in two or more different directions by people/kids or finances or work or family pressures. Some years in our lives will be for child-rearing, or for career advancement, or for studying, or for elder care. We don’t always have the luxury of making the kinds of choices that would be entirely true to ourselves. Life is by definition at best a compromise.

Also, expressing our feelings and being true to ourselves are two things which take a lot of courage and self-confidence. Especially self-confidence is something many people take a lifetime to cultivate. Sometimes we have to put others first – where the problem comes in is when we never put ourselves first.

And I suppose that’s the secret – to do one thing just for yourself every day. Mine is to go on a half-hour walk early every morning. It feels great to start the day by doing something just for myself.  Yours could be to phone the friend you haven’t spoken to for a year, or to join the library, or spend some quiet time with the family or on your own, to take time out for special people or go to see a movie – whatever appeals to you.

In between everything we have to do, we really do need to make time for ourselves. We deserve it. It’s not a selfish thing to do – it is essential for our survival.

By all means hang on to your dreams and remember who you are. Life has a wonderful way of presenting new situations and new opportunities. Be ready to take them. But please don’t lie on your deathbed and regret that you didn’t spend your life backpacking the world or being a National Geographic photographer. Who knows?  The eternal backpacker might regret never settling down and having a family and financial security.
 Everybody’s situation is different: one can have amazing experiences right in the middle of suburbia. You just need to be open to them.

And that’s something you can do today.



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