How Death will help you have fewer regrets in life

Halfway through my Anatomy exam time, I realized that I was in trouble. Instead of studying for this course, I spent my time on other courses, my job, and other random things. I foolishly thought that I would just be fine studying the night before. Yet, this was a horrible mistake.

For every question I came to, I could faintly remember the terms or concepts from class, but I couldn't select an answer confidently. Feelings of regret would overcome me as distracting thoughts would pop into my head. Thoughts like "I wished I reviewed a specific section of the course" or "I wished I paid attention more in class." And as the exam time expired, I had to accept that I was going to get a very poor grade.

As the professors collected the exams, I couldn't help but think of all the lost opportunities to prepare for the exam. If only I had done things differently, my mark could have been better. However, all I could do was just look back at this course with regret.


And when we don't keep our own mortality in mind, that feeling of regret will accompany us on our deathbed. Where we'll look back wishing we lived better.


However, that doesn't have to be the case.

We can live fulfilling lives, we just have to ensure we keep our mortality in our heads during our day-to-day living. Because with mortality, we are given merciless clarity of what we want in life. And in this article, I'm going to show you three areas where death will give you clarity. They are:

  • Use of your time

  • Relationships

  • Goals

Use of Time

Have you ever checked how much time you spent on social media? On your phone, you can go into the settings and see the time spent on each app. And for a lot of us, the time we spend on social media can run in the hours on a per-day basis.


But how come we never notice this.

Surely, if we are spending hours on social media, we would notice the time chunk. However, the way social media works is that throughout the day you steal a little time to go on it. This can happen countless times, where you just take a little bit of time to check your feed, likes, updates, etc. Yet, when you add up all the time, it is a significant amount of your day.

That same amount of time could have been used for countless beneficial activities, like reading a good book, learning a language, working on a passion project, starting an online business, etc.


Yet, this very same time is wasted.

It's wasted because it doesn't feel like we are wasting it. We have this false notion of having unlimited time in life. And as a result, we don't respect those little bits of time we spend on social media.


But if you genuinely accept that you are going to die one day and possibly at any moment.


You quickly realize the value of your time.

This life you have, where time is ticking away on a constant basis, every second closer to your eventual death. That is the time you have on earth to create the life you want. When you realize the priceless value of your time, you are going to be hesitant to waste it on social media or some clickbait article on the internet.

Why waste time on something that will have very little value for your life. Instead, with mortality, you will have the clarity to realize where you want to spend it.

Will it be learning a new instrument?

Will it be being more social in life?

Will it be writing that book?

Mortality will force you to accept full responsibility for your time on earth.

And with this responsibility, you are not going to waste it on things that don't matter. But instead, spend it on the things you truly want.

And one of the things that people truly want that mortality also gives clarification on is relationships.

Relationships

For whatever reason, many people find themselves in lackluster relationships with friends, romantic partners, or work colleagues.

In these relationships, they try to be "nice" and not rock the boat. Even if the other person has done something disrespectful, they let it side.

For whatever reason, people in these relationships don't think they can get any better and live with the status quo for years. Yet, they live with the status quo, because they feel there is hope in the future for change. They think the other person will transform into someone else who will be wonderful. But this rarely happens.

Yet, it is that hope, that holds the person in these lackluster relationships. And hope is predicated that you have time in the future. The time where you will be alive and well, and things change.


Again, that false notion is that we are guaranteed time in the future.

If a person realizes they are going to die and disappear from this earth forever. They are quickly going to see that they are wasting their time in a fruitless relationship. Seeing that their time is limited, they have to seriously question themselves on whether they want to continue a relationship or not.

And these are not easy conversations to have with yourself, but anybody who understands that they are mortal will decide to end the low-quality relationship and find new healthy ones to cultivate.


Death, although scary, helps us to gain more focus on what is it we want.

We can't afford to waste our time on people who don't value us. It's not worth it.


Yes, there is the risk we might find ourselves alone, but it's worse to be in a relationship not being valued properly. It's better to know our own worth and be alone than be with others who don't appreciate us.


But funny enough, you will find people who love and appreciate you. It's just that you need to go out into the world, engage with it, and it will happen naturally.

Time doing that is time well spent. And another area where death will help you spend time more wisely is your goals.

Goals

A lot of people will write down their goals and convince themselves that they will accomplish them. Then 6 months have passed and they haven't gotten much closer to them.

Obviously, life gets in the way with family, work, or whatever.

And these are genuinely convincing excuses. But if you take a moment to meditate on your death, where you imagine yourself on your deathbed looking back at life.

You are going to feel an immense amount of regret for not achieving your goals. And the fact that you can't change your life on your deathbed is going to sicken you. It could be one of the most emotionally painful things you experience.

However, you are still alive now!

You can change that potential grim event by realizing that you don't have that much time in life. So with that in mind, you can take a look at your goals and see which ones you truly want to pursue.


No more corny goals of making a million bucks, getting a 1000 lays, etc. But goals that you can do happily. Death will show you what you need to do. Plus, you will have a natural urgency to chase your goals since you can't bank on the future.

Death will beckon you to work on your goals as much as possible. Friends and family might think you're naturally motivated or something. But it's your mortality that's giving you your push.


And with that push, you will be surprised with what you can accomplish.

No more wasting time on random internet consumption, draining relationships, etc. You are out and about in this world going after what you want.

That zest for life will be felt throughout your body.

This excitement to explore this world and life. It's a hard feeling to explain accurately, but as Rollo May once said, you will find vitality in your mortality.

But what if we can't remember our mortality consistently?

I get it, this does seem like a lot of work. Having to remind yourself of your impending doom. It's not fun and requires effort.


But you have to realize that this is a habit.

Remembering you are going to die is going to be a lot of work at first, but over time it's going to be naturally part of your thought process.


I know it seems like I'm just pulling things out randomly, but it is a well-known idea in the pre-modern world to be mindful of death. Shakespeare said in The Tempest: "Every third thought shall be my grave." Publius Syrus, the Roman Poet wrote beautifully: "Man's life is a loan, not a gift."

Heck, if we want to be a little more recent, take a look at what the late Steve Jobs said about death:


"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you were going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There’s no reason not to follow your heart."


You see, it is your responsibility to be mindful of your mortality. And even though it's annoying to do, you reap the benefits of living a focused life and one you enjoy.


Have you ever heard of Dr.Gabor Maté?

He is a well-known Canadian physician who specializes in addiction. And through his work, he has come across many cases of personal transformation. One story he mentions in a lecture is about how a friend of his found out she had stage 4 cancer.

At this point, cancer reached her bones.

And she was told she had 1 year to live. This friend, whose entire life was a good student, daughter, wife, worker who never rocked the boat, made sudden changes in her life. She confronted her family about past sexual abuses she endured, confronted her husband about his addiction, and left her job because it never truly suited her.

She started to not be a "good" and obedient person.

But instead, she became more honest. She understood that she was going to die and that most of her life was a lie. And surprisingly enough, she lived past that 1-year prognosis and is still alive to this day. And the reason that Dr.Maté believes his friend is still alive is that she is living authentically. And if her impending death from stage 4 cancer did not show up on her desk. She may have continued to live inauthentically.

In case you're a little tired, let's do a recap

Accepting your mortality will give you merciless clarity on the use of your time, relationships, and goals. When you know you are going to die, you are going to question your use of time on pointless things like social media. Also brought into question are your low-quality relationships. It's going to be difficult to commit to people who don't value you as much when you know your time on earth is ticking away. And with your goals, death will give you the clarity to choose the ones worth your time and commit to it. However, I understand that it can be hard to remember your mortality. Yet, it is your responsibility to do it and over time it will become part of your natural thought process. For an example of what mortality can do, remember Dr.Maté's friend's personal transformation after hearing her stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

Listen guys, you can live an amazing life if you just allow death to give you focus. I understand it's scary, but this fear soon disappears. And with the remaining amount of time on earth, you will come to have little to no regrets.

Whereas for me, I'll ensure that I study for my exams in the future. I don't want any more regrets about my grades.