What even the most successful people regret on their deathbed
If you’re thrilled with your life and business, happy in your relationships, and love the way you look and feel, then you should stop reading this right now. Congrats on having it all figured out!
However, if you’re successful yet unfulfilled or you have this persistent feeling that even though you’re doing well you can do a lot better, then I invite you to read this now.
Look, I know that you’re talented and smart and you’ve done some really cool things in your life, and that’s wonderful. At the same time, I know that you want more out of your life. There is so much more you want to do, experience and accomplish. There are new levels of happiness and fulfillment – levels you’ve seen others achieve and you want that too.
So let me ask you some uncomfortable questions and invite you to be brutally honest with yourself. Not because I like pushing pain buttons, but because you might find the outcome highly beneficial. Deal?
Is This What Success Is About?
I take it that you’re smart and resilient, and you have many good things going for you. However, you know that your success is not an accident; rather, it’s the result of your determination, sacrifices and hard work. You’re a doer, not a don’ter, and you make things happen. When life throws a curve ball at you, you don’t whine and complain too much; instead, you find the strength to adjust and move forward.
You’re pragmatic, but that’s because you’ve been burned before. As Oscar Wilde put it, “Experience is the name we give to our mistakes”, right?
You’re a leader and a visionary, yet you might be restrained by your insecurities. You value your independence, yet you might feel trapped in some ways. You’re a giver, yet you might feel unappreciated… longing for genuine connection, recognition and love.
You work hard and your life is highly unbalanced, yet you might be telling yourself that this is how you got to where you are now and that you’re happy. But are you really?
Have you ever had this feeling that, despite your success, something important is missing? Have you asked yourself questions like, “Is this all there is? … Is this what success is about? … Is this the life I really want?”
Perhaps you asked yourself these questions when you were having a drink – or a few too many – alone, trying to silence that lingering dissatisfaction with your life.
Perhaps you’ve achieved a goal or recognition you worked hard for, but instead of feeling the joy you expected would come with your success, you felt empty and unfulfilled.
Or maybe you are just tired of running in the rat race, doing things that don’t really excite you anymore and – frankly – don’t have much meaning.
And the funny thing is, the more you pretend to be content with your life, the more you need to numb and suppress your real feelings because some things just don’t add up anymore. Deep down you know that you’re meant to play a bigger game, make a bigger impact and have a bigger life.
If anything from the above resonates with you, read on.
“I Wish I Had Let Myself Be Happier…”
As a coach to high achievers, it breaks my heart to see many smart, talented and successful people miss out at the end of the day. They tell me that they miss their kids growing up… They miss out on a deep, meaningful connection with the people they love… Sometimes they miss out on their own lives until one day they wake up too late – when the Universe hits them over the head with a cosmic two-by-four and they find themselves in a hospital bed or divorce court.
It doesn’t have to be that way! We shouldn’t need harsh wake-up calls to start prioritizing what really matters in life, should we?
Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all for making money, having a great lifestyle, pushing boundaries and playing the game of business full out! What gets under my skin though is pursuing success at the expense of your own happiness and the happiness of those you love. By the way, this is one of the most common regrets of the dying: “I wish I had let myself be happier…”
Top Regrets of the Dying
Over four decades of studies revealed what even the most successful people regret on their deathbed, and here is the list of some ugly truths that might give you shivers:
- Most dying people regret not the things they did but the things they didn’t do.
- They grieve over their dreams that have gone unfulfilled.
- They wish they had not worked so hard.
- They regret making money at the expense of relationships.
- They wish they had taken the time to love more and to express their love.
- They regret not staying in touch with friends and not giving friendships the time and effort they deserved.
- They wish they had the courage to express their feelings instead of suppressing them.
- They wish they had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life to fulfill somebody else’s expectations or to prove they are good enough.
- Many of them confessed they never really knew themselves or weren’t clear on what they really wanted out of life.
- Many of them said they felt as if they hadn’t really lived.
- And here is a sobering fact: most dying people regret postponing their happiness to “one day”. Guess what? That day never came!
A Million-Dollar Question
Here is a million-dollar question: why do we invest so much of our limited time, energy and money into our businesses, but not our own happiness?
Well, simply put, most of us just don’t know how to create a happy, fulfilled, truly successful life. When you and I went to school, they taught us a lot of stuff we never use in real life, but they didn’t teach us what happiness and success really are about. Our degrees printed on fancy paper didn’t come with a Happy Life manual; we are left to figure it all out on our own.
And unfortunately, so many of us have bought into the idea that if we choose money, power and prestige for the main course, happiness would automatically come as a side dish. This belief is so deeply programmed in our subconscious by the media and society that we don’t question it in our everyday lives.
Sadly, many smart and talented people work hard to get there, but when they make it, they often discover that happiness is nowhere to be found. Instead, they are left with the unfulfilled outcome of their fulfilled goals.
Listen, I’ll be the first one to congratulate you on your success and encourage you to set big financial goals, but if hitting higher revenues or moving up the Forbes list is the main purpose, then it really is a dead end. Because things like money, accolades or fun escapes just can’t fill the void deep inside.
Do You Postpone Your Happiness?
Let me ask you – do you postpone your happiness to a day that may never come? Maybe you can relate to some of my clients who chased that ever-elusive happiness for years, but ultimately accepted their unhappiness as the inevitable price of their success…
Perhaps, your life looks great on the outside, yet on the inside you might feel stuck, unfulfilled, empty, bored, unhappy or even anxious without a logical reason. Perhaps you feel that you don’t belong. Perhaps you’re trying to numb the unspoken sadness or feel something real using too much alcohol, sex or drugs. Or maybe you find yourself on the verge of complete physical or emotional burnout.
If this is how you feel, please know – you are not alone. In a recent Harvard Medical School study, 96% of senior leaders reported feeling burned out to some degree and one-third of them described their physical and emotional burnout as extreme.
According to the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, 45% of entrepreneurs said they were stressed and unhappy, including experiencing mood swings, loss of motivation, depression, worthlessness, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.
According to Forbes, suicide rates have increased by 25% in the last 20 years.
Not a pretty picture. And you know what? Every time I speak to a new client, it never fails to amaze me how much strong people are able to suppress and tolerate. The sad fact is that far too many pay a ridiculously high price for what’s considered “success” in worldly terms.
Suck It Up, Princess
Here is the worst part – most entrepreneurs and executives struggle silently because they feel that acknowledging their challenges, especially emotional challenges, would be considered a weakness.
That’s not surprising though – we’ve been raised in the society where “boys don’t cry” and where it’s not okay to reveal how you really feel. We live in the society where our external achievements seem to be more important than our inner light. And as a result of being “strong”, you might feel incredibly alone or unworthy at times, despite the overwhelming evidence of your abilities.
For a long time, my motto in life was “Suck it up, Princess”. Little did I know that I could never change what I was not willing to acknowledge. Little did I know that suppressing all that lingering dissatisfaction with my life was what greatly contributed to repeating the same dysfunctional patterns in the first place. Little did I know that the longer I was avoiding dealing with my unconscious fears and unexplained emotional pain, the bigger blow I would have to deal with later. What goes in must come out; that’s why things like a midlife crisis aren’t that unpredictable after all.
Deep Down, We Are Afraid
You see, most of us have never been taught how to deal with life’s challenges in healthy and productive ways. Oftentimes, we don’t even know what exactly we’re feeling because we have not spent much, if any, time to analyze things on an emotional level. Most of us have no idea how to process our bottled-up emotions and heal old emotional traumas that – surprisingly! – still greatly affect our present-day lives.
However, here is the thing: we don’t want to be hurt anymore, so we unconsciously come up with sophisticated self-protection and coping mechanisms.
We keep ourselves busy to suppress our real feelings. We stuff things down to avoid acknowledging our problems. We get angry to shift responsibility. We put on weight to hide our vulnerability. We numb ourselves with alcohol, drugs and every other addiction in between. We boost our ego to emphasize our importance. We change lovers like we change bed sheets to avoid real emotional intimacy at all cost.
Different strokes for different folks, yet the common denominator is this: deep down we’re afraid. Consciously or unconsciously, we’re afraid to open up and trust again because we think that it’s not safe to be vulnerable. Consciously or unconsciously, we don’t want to let go of all those stories in our heads that we bought into so wholeheartedly. Consciously or unconsciously, we’re afraid of what might happen if we actually reconnect with who we really are and what truly matters to us.
So we create invisible walls that we think protect us from drama, rejection, criticism, abandonment, betrayal and all other emotional pain, yet these are the same walls that prevent us from receiving the love that deep down we are craving so bad. No wonder we can’t find happiness in the midst of it all.
And what do we do to numb that suppressed dissatisfaction with our lives and quiet down that nagging little voice inside? We go back to the treadmill and chase after the next big thing. Stressed, depleted, self-medicated, we are slowly becoming statistical data for those Top Regrets of the Dying surveys, unless we make a choice to simply stop or life makes this choice for us.
My Wake Up Call
I remember the intense, overwhelming feeling of how precious life is that flooded me right after I signed waivers for my emergency open-heart surgery, including the one that stated I might not wake up the next day. Apparently, my aorta was about to rupture, and if it happened before surgery, I would have died instantly.
I guess it’s not such a bad way to go (it’s quick!), but I certainly wasn’t ready for the worst-case scenario.
Puking hospital drugs that my body refused to process, I remember thinking, “I just turned 37… I haven’t really lived yet!!” I also remember feeling profound sadness thinking about all those unfulfilled dreams of mine… all the things I’ve settled for… all the love that I didn’t give and receive.
Luckily for me, I didn’t die, and my recovery is another story altogether. But I have to tell you – I really didn’t like the things I had to face lying in that hospital bed. Even though I had been on a personal development journey for a while by then, the fact that I might be dead tomorrow put my entire life in perspective and, suddenly, everything that seemed important didn’t really matter anymore.
This painful experience (and many others along the way – I have an extended collection!) helped me find my truth and stop postponing my happiness to a day that may never come. It helped me realize how short and precious life is, and shift my priorities accordingly.
And you know something? You really don’t have to have a near-death experience or lose someone you love before you start appreciating life in a whole different way. It’s just a matter of changing your perspective. As my friend Paul likes to say, “How many summers do I have left?”
The Ultimate Failure
Perhaps you too have experienced that intense feeling that life goes by way too fast. Perhaps you too can’t help but wonder, “How come do I have so much grey hair when I’m just about to start living?” Perhaps you too are tired of the inner conflict between the Old You that wants you to stay the same and the New You that somehow knows that there is so much more out there for you.
Pay attention now. I hear unfulfilled achievers’ confessions too many times in any given month to be impartial, and I’m here to tell you: there is so much more out there for you! You are important. You are lovable. You’re worthy of everything you desire, and you do have a purpose that is meant to make you feel alive.
It’s only when we disconnect from who we really are, we start wondering what the hell we are doing with our lives. It’s only when the deepest parts of us go unexplored and suppressed, we can’t seem to find happiness, meaning and inner peace.
The good news is that it really is up to us to create a happier, more meaningful, truly successful life. If we don’t, what’s the alternative? As Tony Robbins put it, “Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure”.
Now it’s your time to redefine what success really is about. And because you’re reading this, I know that you are a smart, open-minded person who refuses to settle for an ordinary life and deathbed regrets. So I invite you to give some serious thought to what really matters to you and take a brutally honest look at what works, what doesn’t work and what’s missing in your life.
What if you cut away years of mental and emotional clutter? What if you reconnect with the very core of who you really are and what truly matters to you? There is no statute of limitations on reinventing yourself.
Imagine a life of freedom and purpose. Imagine new levels of fulfillment and fun. Imagine deep, authentic connection with the people you love. Imagine making more, working less, and enjoying pursuits that deeply enrich your life.
This is not wishful thinking. These are the real changes I witness in my clients’ lives over and over again. And it all starts with a decision. You’re only one decision away from a totally different life. Why? Because when we make a decision, the Universe moves with us.
Listen, I know that you’re busy and your day might look like well-organized chaos at times. I know that life gets in the way and the first thing that happens is that you miss out on self-care.
But I also know that the last thing you want is to get to the end of your life without having done what you were supposed to do and experiencing what you wanted to experience.
So whatever you want to change, start today. Because if you don’t, your life will predictably be the same 6 or 12 months from now, staying on the same trajectory year after year… would you agree? There is no change without action, right?
Now, you might not know where to start and what to do exactly. It’s okay. We don’t know what we don’t know. Reach out for help – talk to a mentor you trust, attend high-level personal development events that resonate with you, hire an experienced coach – because we all need help once in a while.
When I work with my private multi-millionaire clients, I take them through my signature process that allows them to achieve real, irreversible, positive results in an unusually short period of time. Let me outline the main steps of this process so that you know what needs to be addressed in order to create core change, okay?
The Ugly Truth About Self-Sabotage
Step 1, which I call GET REAL & CLEAR, is about getting brutally honest with yourself about what works, what doesn’t work and what’s missing in your life. Here I focus on the following:
1) Your FUTURE to identify what you really want out of your life. Sadly, too many of us spend our entire lives unconsciously fulfilling other people’s expectations instead of defining success in our own terms. This is why it’s important to create a vision that’s aligned with your purpose and values because if you’re not doing meaningful things that make you feel alive, life gets pretty empty and boring pretty fast.
2) Your PAST to uncover your unconscious self-limiting beliefs standing in the way of having what you want. If you are like most people, even if you know what you want and how to get there, you might be struggling with anxiety, procrastination and self-sabotage. Why is that?
The truth is that we all have hidden mental and emotional blocks that silently sabotage our wealth, health and love. We like to think that we are in control, yet there is a very powerful force at play called the subconscious mind, and this is the real reason why we do what we do, not what we say.
Did you know that up to 95% of our actions, thoughts, beliefs and feelings are automatically controlled by our subconscious mind?
Did you know that every decision we make – big or small – is vetted by the subconscious to comply with our core beliefs about life?
Did you know that whenever there is a conflict between conscious and subconscious, the subconscious wins?
Of course, you have positive, productive beliefs and they’ve brought you where you are today. That’s great! However, you also have negative, self-limiting beliefs – buried deep within your subconscious mind – that run your life in stealth mode.
And just like a computer virus sabotages the optimal work of the operating system, they silently sabotage your wealth, health or love. The good news is, like a computer virus they can be identified and removed.
This is why it’s important to uncover and understand our emotional triggers, deep-seated fears and core self-limiting beliefs. When we get clear not only about what we really want, but also how and why we sabotage our own happiness and success, we can make new powerful choices in life. Do you know what I mean?
Something old in you has to die for something new to live
Step 2, which I call RELEASE & RENEW, is about healing the invisible vulnerable parts of us that need healing. It’s about letting go of the old to create space for the new.
Let’s say you’d like a glass of delicious red wine yet what you’re holding in your hand is a glass of white that’s kinda stale and warm. Even if you pour some amazing red in your glass, it won’t be enjoyable because the old wine will spoil the new, right? You’ve got to rinse the glass!
Here is something that most people are unaware of – you formed every core self-limiting belief at a high emotional peak. Maybe your father left the family for another woman, and you’ve made an unconscious decision that you’re unwanted or can’t trust anyone. Maybe you experience physical or emotional abuse and you’ve made an unconscious decision that you’re unlovable. Maybe you watched your parents lose it all, and you’ve made an unconscious decision that it’s not safe to go after your dreams.
It’s not so much about the circumstances but the decisions that we’ve made on the unconscious level. This is why it is important to work with your core trauma so that you can free yourself from repressed painful memories and associated self-limiting beliefs (a.k.a. white wine).
One of many crazy things about the subconscious mind is that it doesn’t know the difference between past, present and future.
What this means is that even if a defining event happened eons ago (e.g. your childhood), your self-limiting beliefs still – up to this day! – prevent you from expressing yourself in an authentic way in one or more areas of your life.
And, unfortunately, it’s not enough to just talk about your emotional trauma. We can talk about it until the cows come home with little or no progress, and this is the part that’s missed by most coaches and traditional psychology practitioners.
The key here is to actually release the trauma by allowing yourself to feel it and let the body process it to set you free. I call it Emotional Surgery – cut it open, get it done, get it over with. My proprietary technique allows my clients to let go of heavy emotional baggage in an unusually short period of time. Many of them call this experience The Shower On The Inside.
Now, I get it that it might be difficult for you to drop your armor because we’ve been conditioned that it’s not okay to show our vulnerability. Do it anyway because the only way out is through. We can’t heal what we don’t feel.
By the way, time doesn’t heal anything; it just conceals the vulnerable parts of us that need healing. It’s only when we face our stubborn, misunderstood emotional triggers, heal our deep emotional wounds and move beyond our old stories, we can transform our lives for good. Does this make sense?
In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take
Step 3, which I call UPGRADE & INTEGRATE, is my favorite and this is where the fun begins. It is about deliberate creation.
When we connect with the very core of who we are, heal our emotional wounds and start taking consistent action, beautiful things happen! Yet, unfortunately, too many of us give up too soon.
Don’t kill the messenger, but real change doesn’t happen overnight. Even though a big inner shift can happen in an instant, change takes time. According to modern neuroscience, the brain needs between 18 and 254 days to adopt new beliefs and behaviors. And the deeper the issues are, the more time it takes the brain to rewire itself.
However, there are some great options that help speed up the process of core change. When I work with my clients, I like to use my proprietary brain-retraining meditations that allow you to rewire your brain for higher levels of success and inner peace, even when you sleep.
When you start to intentionally create the life you want, and you use the power of your subconscious mind to work for you rather than against you, magic happens.
You stop pleasing others and looking for love and validation in all the wrong places. You no longer let past hurt hold you back. Your relationships are reignited with passion. You find more meaning and purpose. You step into your higher potential and you stop delaying living your life to the fullest. It’s an incredible shift.
Science tells us that our life is just a mirror reflection of our core beliefs about life; this is why changing from the inside out is the only way to create irreversible positive change.
You Are Already Naked
One more thing. Sorry, it’s a bit harsh. If you die in a month from now, what do you need to do today to die complete? To whom do you need to say, “I love you”? To whom do you need to say, “I’m sorry”? Whom do you need to forgive? More importantly, what do you need to do to fully accept and love yourself?
In conclusion, allow me to leave you with the excerpt from Steve Jobs’ Commencement Speech at Stanford. I find that, over a decade later, this message is more relevant than ever.
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer had been No for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I will 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 are 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 is no reason not to follow your heart.
… Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”