“While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” ~Leonardo Da Vinci
It’s terrifying, isn’t it?
There you are—days, hours, maybe minutes remain in your life. You lie there helpless, searching for the strength to say your last goodbyes.
You look back on your life. All the things you wish you’d done differently.
As you continue to reminisce an overwhelming emotion comes rushing in, an emotion many are familiar with.
You set the standards high for yourself. But now that it’s all said and done, more was always said than done.
There’s no greater fear than leaving this world with our most important goals unfinished. Yet, with never ending hopes and dreams are we destined to live an incomplete life of mediocrity?
Perhaps it doesn’t have to be that way.
A New Perspective & Why You Should Burn Your Bucket List
It’s human nature to desire more. No matter how much we accomplish, we’re wired to create new objectives to pursue.
For most of my upbringing, I was obsessed with bucket lists. Mine had over 100 things I wanted to do. Anytime I managed to cross one off the list, I’d add ten more.
The process was never ending and doomed for failure.
During this time my grandfather passed away. It happened so fast I never got to say goodbye. It was my first experience of how quickly life comes and goes.
I started thinking about when my time would come. Would it matter what my bucket list looked like on my deathbed?
So I threw it out. Instead of thinking of what I wanted to do with my life, I started focusing on things I didn’t want to say about myself when it was time for me to go.
That I was greedy, angry, or rude. That I didn’t care about others, or even myself.
Death is scary. We can’t change that. But we have a chance to live fully right now—and we can do that by ensuring we don’t have to say these things at the end.
1. I didn’t take care of my body.
Your time will come much faster if you don’t take care of yourself.
Smoking, excessive drinking, compulsive eating, sitting for too long—all these add up over time. Continuing bad habits encourages rapid aging and brings you closer to your final days.
You can buy another car, a new house, and find another job, but you only get one body.
If you want an abundance of breathtaking moments, you need a body that’s ready for the long haul.
2. I let anger get the best of me.
Anger is a natural emotion. We all experience it, and at times it’s perfectly justifiable. But we do ourselves a disservice if we let anger control us and sabotage our relationships.
One of the best ways to address anger is to empathize with others and to understand why they did what they did.
Being proactive and reflecting on the times you’re angry helps you to get to the root of what’s bothering you, allowing you to move on and go back to being happy.
3. I spent my entire life in my comfort zone.
There’s no bigger waste of your time than doing the same thing over and over waiting for something exciting to happen.
Nothing exciting will happen if you don’t get out there and make something happen.
Escaping the confinement of comfort is a struggle for anyone at first.
But when you’re looking at your life as a whole, you’ll be proud if you don’t have to say the most unease you felt was choosing what to watch on Netflix to waste the night away.
4. I spent too much time around toxic people.
There comes a time when you must face the reality that not everyone you spend your time with is actually benefitting your well-being.
People change, family members bring you down, and certain people just aren’t fun to be around.
If you want to make the most of your time, it’s essential you minimize your time with people who drain you emotionally, disrespect you, or otherwise treat your poorly.
If you think it’s rude to dismiss someone, look at it this way: When you stop spending time with people who aren’t positive additions to your life, you open yourself up to relationships with people who will uplift and support you.
5. I didn’t stay in touch with family and friends.
The other end of the spectrum is the people we love.
Humans are biologically social creatures. We’re meant to be around others, especially the ones we care about most. There’s no sense in fighting the nature of humans because you’re too busy at the office.
If this doesn’t seem pressing to you now, know that it may one day feel that way, when they’re gone and you realize you didn’t show them how much you loved them.
6. I didn’t give as much as I took.
It’s easy to forget that nothing tangible comes with us after we die.
Once we’re gone, that’s it. Whatever you have gets left behind. So why do we spend valuable years of our lives taking rather than giving?
Money is always the first to come to mind. I’m not suggesting we give it all away, but I’ve never met someone who was proud to say that all they did with their life was pad their bank account.
Life is about giving and sharing experiences. The more you give, the happier you’ll be.
7. I thought I knew everything.
People often assume that after graduating from high school or college, they know everything.
But the truth is when you stop learning, you stop growing.
Since the beginning of our existence humans have been explorers, venturing to the corners of the world and into space to discover more about life.
Constant learning allows us to discover new things about ourselves and the world, and our experiences teach us things that could never be taught in a classroom.
Looking at the bigger picture, we don’t know anything. And that’s exactly what makes life so exciting.
8. I never made any mistakes.
It seems counterintuitive to wish for failure, but our mistakes are what allow us to grow.
The point isn't to make as many mistakes as possible, but to learn from our mistakes.
Every great revelation, invention, or revolution started with hundreds of mistakes before it, until one miracle made it all worth it.
It’s not so much mistakes that matter, but having the courage to make them.
9. I hated my job.
Accepting the nine to five and secure paycheck. Two weeks vacation for fifty weeks of slavery. Accumulating debt on house loans, car payments, and credit cards. Add on the responsibility of supporting your family, and it may seem you’ll be trapped forever.
If you don’t enjoy your job now, that’s okay; many feel the same. But if by the time you lay on your deathbed you still hate it and never left, that’s a problem.
You won’t want to look back and say you took the easy route and played it safe, accepting that you were never supposed to do anything meaningful with your life.
Leaving a job is scary, especially when raising a family. It doesn’t mean you should quit today, but implementing an exit plan toward a career you actually do enjoy will relieve yourself from years of misery.
10. I spent my entire life trying to be someone else.
It’s become the norm to follow the crowd, adapt to the trends, and accept what everyone else is doing and join in.
By doing this you never encounter the person you really are because you’ve been camouflaged by the identity of society.
Taking time to understand yourself is life changing. It allows you to gather a clear picture of what you want to accomplish during your short time on Earth.
You learn the things you love about yourself and things you might want to change. And most important, you understand what makes you unique and how your uniqueness can help you leave the world a better place than you found it.
One Last Thing
In the end, you’ll likely reflect on the things you didn’t do. As I said before, it’s human nature.
But avoiding certain things, such as not taking care of myself and living in my comfort zone, has brought more happiness to my life than a bucket list ever could.
It doesn’t matter if you swim with sharks, travel to every country, and take the first ride of space tourism; what matters is how you live your life, how well you take care of yourself, and how well you take care of others.
This is your life, and you only get one. There’s no right or wrong way to live it.
What matters is that you do.
Woman with umbrella image via Shutterstock