Start With Top Life Regrets and Work Backwards


I’m a proponent of reverse planning, i.e. deciding what you want and then working backwards until you get it.

That’s one option for pursuing happiness, but it’s hard to do because people don’t know what they want. A better approach may be figuring out what went wrong and then doing the opposite.


Considerable research has been done on what people regret when they’re preparing to die. This seems like a good source of data for what not to do. Here’s a list:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

So the simple methodology I’m recommending is to take each, in order, and work the opposite into your life, like so:

Things to make part of your lifestyle

  1. Be yourself at almost any cost. If you feel yourself being pressured not to be, change your surroundings (people, job, etc.)

  2. Don’t work too much.

  3. Express your feelings to those you care about on a regular basis.

  4. Reach out to your friends on a regular basis.

  5. Make your happiness a priority.

Astute readers will notice that this is only a beginning. Avoiding the five worst things in one’s life is not a guarantee for happiness. But what it does do is tell you some core things to focus on as must-haves, and in that respect I think it’s worthy of notice.

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