I’ve been having conversations with folks about what kind of legacy they want from their lives and what they desire most. One of the themes I hear is around experiences, for example, “I’d like to travel the world. I think I’d have regret if I got to the end of my life and didn’t travel the world.”
When I had my heart attack in 2005, and I thought maybe that was the end of my life, I got to experience the sort of regret that a dying man might face. And traveling the world, or having certain experiences wasn’t one of them. Missing out on experiences wasn’t even on my radar in that moment.
The regret I experienced the most revolved around people. I wanted to know that I had loved people. Did my family really know that I loved them? The other regret was that I felt my impact on the world was really small. I figured only a handful of people would even notice that I was gone. I wanted to know if my life mattered. Did it make a difference that lived? What of me would live on after I was gone?
Specifically, my regrets were around my interpersonal legacy. Regretting not having experiences or pleasures for myself didn’t even cross my mind.
What You May Regret
I’m writing this in case what is foremost on your mind right now is acquiring experiences, achieving financial success, gaining prestige, gaining status, or similar. I believe it is possible that, like me, these things will matter very little to you when you get to the end of your life.
The big question to ask yourself right now is, “What do I really care about?” And really dig into this question. It would be a terrible shame if you invested your whole life into things of lesser importance and neglected the weightier things that really mattered to you.
I believe that what you do for yourself will die with you, and what you do for others will live on. And I believe that if I had to choose between them, what I do for others is the far more important one. What do you believe?