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5 Regrets People Make in Death Mode

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It is grisly and frightening, but death is unavoidable. All we can hope for is that when the time comes, we be content with ourselves and with our efforts to have led our lives meaningfully in this world. I recently read a wonderful book ‘Tuesdays with Moorie’ by Mitch Albom, a thought provoking true story of a professor who is a victim of a terminal disease and knows that he is going to die soon. The book is about the professor’s emotional state after he finds out about his illness and how he faces the situation. 


After reading the book, I conducted an exercise with a few people with the question of what they would do on the day that they find out is the last day of their lives. I questioned the young and the old and men as well as women without any discrimination to uncover their true regrets at the end of their life’s journey. This little exercise turned out to be one of the greatest learning experiences of my life so far.


For many years I’ve been working as a personal development trainer and coach and counseling people is also a part of my job. I have met thousands of people from diverse backgrounds in the last decade. I’ve met happy people and depressed people, people who wanted to do great things and people who were contemplating suicide. There were even a few who had even attempted suicide. All these individuals shared incredibly special stories with me. I have seen people on their deathbeds, including my parents, relatives and acquaintances and had a chance to strike a discussion with some of them on this topic as well. I have seen people dying in complete peace while others had question marks and regrets on their faces and in their eyes.

People reflect a lot when they are faced with their own death. I have learnt never to underestimate someone’s capability for reflection and pondering as these can occur at any time. The feelings that people have during their last days vary greatly; from denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial to eventual acceptance. The people whom I questioned did not have any terminal disease nor was it the last day of their lives. I just asked them to assume that it was and then answer the question of what regrets they thought they would have and what they would do differently. Here are the most common five responses:


1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a meaningful and purposeful life rather than the life the whole world wanted me to live.


This was the most common regret I heard. When people realized that life was over and the sun was about to set, they felt as a poet said,


Mein ab tak din ke hangamo mei gum tha

magar ab sham hoti ja rahi hai!


I have been lost all this time in the bustle of life

But now evening has started to fall…


At the end of the day, people suddenly realized how many dreams had gone unfulfilled, how many songs remained unsung and how many tasks left unaccomplished. Most people said that they had not pursued even half of their visions and realized that it was due to the choices they had or had not made. 


It is very important to clarify and make the effort to realize your visions along the way. Because if you suddenly lose your health, or some other calamity befalls you, it is often too late. Health gives us a freedom very few of us appreciate, until they no longer have it. I remember a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (saw):


“Value your health before the illness comes.”


For many people, it was because they lived their life as dictated by others and had undesired visions imposed upon them by the existing system or people that they had little or no connection with what they actually wanted to pursue. This is a terrible feeling to have. There was a time in my own life that I experienced feeling this way. But thanks to some timely choices, this is not the case anymore.


2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.


This is an interesting regret because it came from some very successful professionals / business people. Because they remained so swamped with work, they missed out on their children’s youth, they overlooked the needs of their parents in their old age and never savored the flavor of their spouse’s true companionship. This regret also came from women, especially those pursuing full time breadwinning activities along with their husbands. All of the men I met deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a worldly existence with no share of that activity in the aakhirah.


By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to manage your life within a reasonably good income. This helps to create more space in your life, makes you happier and more open to opportunities for worthier visions targeted towards a meaningful lifestyle. The modern day ‘culture of spending’ is designed in such a way that it compels one to spend ferociously even when that spending is not required.


It is easy for the mindless consumer to fall into this trap and hence ends up spending excessively on unnecessary luxuries of the world even if it means slipping into huge financial obligations. To meet these obligations, he works even harder than before so that he can earn more and reduce this burden. But this is a vicious loop, a quagmire that just pulls you in with no way out. I wish we could understand the true value of our lives and work hard to pursue the most desired and meaningful visions, not just work continually to cater to the demands of this deadly vicious loop.


3. I wish I’d had learnt to say ‘No’.


Another interesting regret was how many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep others happy. As a result, they settled for a tiring and indistinct existence and never realized their true potential. This gradually led to bitterness and resentment that poisoned their lives and their thoughts and shattered any potential they had for success. 


We must remember that we cannot control the reactions of others. Although people may initially react negatively when you change the way you’ve always dealt with them by being truthful, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. I have experienced that it is mostly our inner fear rather than the response of others that holds us back from expressing honest feelings. By expressing your true feelings, the pressure of living an artificial life is released forever. As a result, either your relationship improves or is purged from your life forever. In other words, it’s a win-win situation. It is hard but nevertheless, you come out the winner.  You have a choice; live with healthy relationships based on mutual understanding without compromising on your other roles or suppress your personality and end the journey of life with this regret.


4. I wish I had done something worthy to please Allah (swt) and Prophet (sas).


Often we do not truly realize the importance of connecting our dreams with the pleasure of Allah (swt) until the end of life is near. Today, people are so caught up in their own lives that they let golden opportunities of doing something great to contribute to the vision of Prophet Muhammad (sas) slip right over them. There were many deep regrets in this regard. Everyone realized that they had missed amazing opportunities but only at the time of death when it was too late. 


At the time of death, the physical details of life tend to fall away. Most people want to get their spiritual affairs in order as soon as possible. They also want to get their affairs with other people in order too. These include the rights of others that they had bulldozed and the abuse committed at their hands etc. Material goods, name and status hold no importance for them at this time. They want to get their things in order for the new world that summons them now. Hence they strive to seek the pleasure of Allah (swt) rather than His wrath in the hereafter. Usually though, they are too sick and worn out to ever manage these affairs. It is often just too late. Basically, the entire discussion called ‘life’ boils to the rights of Allah and His people in the end. That is all that matters the most in the final weeks; relationship in the skies and the ties down on earth.


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


This was a surprising regret considering that almost everyone looks pretty happy when you see them. However, many people fail to realize until the very end that happiness is a choice. I especially presented my deathbed wish question to people who were apparently very happy. Therefore, it was surprising to get this response from them. Their main reason for unhappiness was that they had stayed stuck in mundane patterns and habits. They confused happiness with pleasure; one of the greatest deceptions of modern day life. 


You need to remember that not all pleasure constitutes happiness. I have seen people going through tough times, but are happy and people who have all the pleasures available, but remain unhappy. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into people’s feelings, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were happy. But deep inside them, they longed to laugh properly and to feel truly blissful in their lives again.


When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is the farthest thought from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before death comes knocking on the door. Smile and let others smile by making their lives easy too. In the end, life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose wisely, consciously and honestly. Choose true happiness because life is too short for spending recklessly and ending with deplorable regrets.


Think for yourself; what would you do today if you were to find out that this was the last day of your life. Start every day with this thought so that when it is time to say goodbye to the world, you do it with peace and not regret.  





For those who have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point,  Made to Stick by Dan Heath and Chip Heath comes as a reinvigorating sequel. Though the authors have different fields of expertise, their concentration zeroes in on the dilemma of why some ideas succeed and others fail. Made to Stick turns out to be an indispensible read regardless of if you’re mulling over a grand project or simply trying to figure out a more enduring process of teaching math concepts to a seven year old. The core theory of the book is that unless an idea has the ‘stickiness’ factor, a term borrowed from Gladwell, it will not ‘stick’ in the recipient’s mind.


To elaborate this point, the book is littered with real life examples of successful ideas as opposed to those that lose their air very quickly. Explaining the stickiness factor, the authors write, ‘By ‘stick’ we mean that your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact—they change your audience’s opinions and behavior’. Further simplifying the ‘stickiness’ process, they have devised the litmus test called SUCCES, with a single S at the end.


The first letter in the acronym stands for Simple. This refers to finding the core of the idea through prioritizing or becoming the ‘masters of exclusion’. Though the rest of the details in any given idea may also be important, it is imperative to strip away everything else except what really matters. The example used here is of Southwest Airlines and how it became the most successful airline by simply following the motto ‘We are THE low fare airline’. Hence every other idea, no matter how good, was stripped away if it affected this motto in any way. 


The second letter U stands for Unexpected. This asserts that in order to capture the imagination and attention of the recipient, an idea needs to be unexpected. Unexpected, surprising and ‘out of the box’ ideas help to jolt the mind out of a mundane and boring trajectory whereby forcing it to absorb the new information. The Gap Theory of curiosity is discussed here expounding why curiosity makes the human mind cling on to a thought; it is because of the overpowering wish to fill the ‘gap of knowledge’ that missing information creates.   


The C in SUCCES stands for Concrete. In order for an idea to stick, it has to be concrete and wholly tangible. In the words of the authors, ‘If you can imagine something with your senses, it is concrete. A V8 engine is concrete. ‘High Performance’ is abstract. Concrete language helps people, especially novices, understand new concepts’. One of the best ways to present ideas concretely to others is to remember that they don’t know what we know. Hence we have to be concise in order to make the new concept stick to their mind. 


The second C stands for Credibility. This means that in addition to being simple, unexpected and concrete, an idea also has to be credible in order to be believable. Since not all ideas can come from the mouth of an expert in the given field, there are three ways of adding credibility; by depending on their merits, through details or statistics, or through the use of examples. The authors also discuss how ‘antiauthorities’ are often very credible sources of information. For instance, you may not believe the shampoo ad even if an expert on shampoos guarantees you great results. However, if your best friend vouches for it, you are more compelled to buy it. You friend hence lends that voice of credibility, even if as an antiauthority. 


The fifth letter in the acronym stands for Emotional. This means that if the viewer or receiver of the idea feels an emotional tie to it, it will help to make it stick in his mind. Though ideas have to be credible enough to believe, people should also care about it to add stickiness. The example used here is how charities draft their letters. An experiment revealed that the letters that were sent out with statistics on who needed how much help brought in less money than the ones that outlined the actual human suffering that could be eased through the donations. Chip and Dan Heath write, ‘But ‘making people care’ isn’t something that only charities need to do. Managers have to make people care enough to work long and hard on complex tasks. Teachers have to make students care about literature’. 


The single S at the end of the acronym is for Stories. The use of stories creates simulation of an idea that in turn create images that make it easier for a new concept or idea to stick in the mind. A simple example of this is the use of flight simulators for training pilots as opposed to the uninvolving and tiresome flash cards. The authors identify three types of plots that help increase stickiness; the challenge plot, the connection plot and the creativity plot. In the challenge plot, daunting obstacles are overcome. In the connection plot the story involves the development of relationships that help to bridge gaps pertaining to class, ethnicity, religion, race or other. In the creativity plot, an individual makes a mental breakthrough or attempts resolving an issue in a novel manner.


In short, Made to Stick is a book that is just as much for a high school student aspiring to be successful as it is for the CEO of a company thinking of powerful ways to keep employees motivated and engaged. It is not only for the entrepreneur who is already in business, but also for the one who is planning to start one. Does the actual idea pass the litmus test? What name would catch the interest of people who are already skimming hundreds of websites everyday on the Internet? How should you design your website? Though there are endless questions pertaining to the potential success of a business or a idea, a formula that can actually make the idea shine is very simple; SUCCES. Made to Stick keeps you engaged from the first page to the last and the ‘stickiness’ formula it prescribes is not only simple but also highly sticky. 


As with all books that focus on simplifying the process of decision making, organization, running complex businesses and dealing with people, the wish surfaces at the end of this book too that may the leaders at the helm of the boat of our government may also take a moment to read what Made to Stick has to say about creating top notch ideas that can turn the minds of the public around.  



Irum Sarfaraz is a freelance writer/editor settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA. Her published credits as writer and web content developer include well over 2,000 articles in both American and Pakistani publications. Her notable work is the translation of Harun Yahya's epic Atlas of Creation-Vol 1 and Evolution Deceit from English to Urdu. Sister Irum has a master's degree in English Literature and will be writing the Book Review for Envision every month. 



Dear Brothers and Sisters,




Recently, I got to read a book ‘Tuesdays with Moorie’ by Mitch Albom, and as a result, some interesting thoughts were triggered in my mind. So I took the opportunity of Envision’s editorial to pen down what I think are the five regrets people make if they find out that this is the last day of their lives. So, I will just leave you with two thoughts before you go on reading my essay. First: Whatever you would want to do on the last day of your life, shouldn’t that be done daily as any day of your life could be your last day?, and second: Whatever you would never want to do on the last day of your life, shouldn’t that be avoided daily as any day of your life could be your last day?


Anyways, the year 2015 started well Alhamdulillah and we find ourselves in pull pace now. Apart from conducting a variety of workshops in various cities, what we were tremendously excited about in January was the upcoming Vision Retreat in March 2015. Yes, the preparations are in full swing now, and we are trying to close the registrations since the number of cap for this workshop is 18. This is to ensure the productivity of facilitator-participants ratio. Those of you who still haven’t heard about Vision Retreat; it is a three days residential program for people who have taken the Strategic Visions and Strategic Time Management workshops and who would like to be facilitated in developing their personal visions. In Vision Retreat, apart from getting opportunity to network with global visionaries, putting your visions on paper, getting feedback from experts (and enjoying Malaysia off course), you get to attend the thought provoking session on “Understanding sound ideology”. Those of you who have attended the Strategic Visions workshop understand the importance of ideology in the process of making visions. In “Understanding sound ideology” workshop, we talk about the evidences of recognizing the sound ideology.


The upcoming Vision Retreat is scheduled on March 13-16, 2015. We are still left with little more than a month before the Vision Retreat starts. So check the schedule of Strategic Visions workshops and Strategic Time Management workshop on our website, and register yourself if you still haven’t attended these workshops yet.


My friends! In order to envision what the world perceives as impossible, you will need to keep your mind above the skies. In order to stay aligned with the reality, you will need to keep your feet on the ground. I know this is hard. So, I would recommend you to come in the company of people who are making impossible possible, as it will help you in stretching your soul to the extent that your dreams and imaginations will be on the vertical limit and your feet will be on the ground to gradually march towards your strategic vision. 




Yameenuddin Ahmed

The Editor




Strategic Visions

Diamond Paint Industries (Pvt.) Ltd., Lahore

02 - 04 January, 2015


Effective Leadership Through Character

Pak Navy, Islamabad

06 - 08 January, 2015


Strategic Visions

IBA Main Campus, Karachi

08 – 11 January, 2015


Personal & Organizational Effectiveness

Pak Army, Islamabad

09 – 13 January, 2015


Strategic Time Management

Rising Sun, Lahore

14 – 15 January, 2015


Strategic Time Management

Faletti’s Hotel, Lahore

16 – 18 January, 2015


Executive Strategic Visions

Serena Hotel, Islamabad

16 – 18 January, 2015


Strategic Visions

Textile Testing International, Lahore

19 – 22 January, 2015


Strategic Time Management

Marriott Hotel, Karachi

23 – 25 January, 2015


Stress Management

Serena Hotel, Islamabad

24 January, 2015


Sleep Management

Serena Hotel, Islamabad

25 January, 2015


Sleep Management

Al Jawhara Gardens Hotel, Dubai

29 January, 2015


Bridging Differences

Al Jawhara Gardens Hotel, Dubai

30 - 31 January, 2015


Strategic Time Management

The Indus Hospital, Karachi

30 - 31 January, 2015


Strategic Visions

Best Western Hotel, Islamabad

30 January – 01 February, 2015






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