The Single Biggest Regret Of The Dying

biggest regret of the dying

Last week I turned 23.

Instead of going out and getting drunk, I decided to do something different this year.

It was a surprisingly hard decision to make. Not because I wanted to go out, but because I felt like I had to go out. It’s what everyone else does on their birthdays, and it’s what I’ve done every other year for probably the last 5 years or so on my birthday.

But I just didn’t feel like it this year.

I didn’t want to go out and then have to deal with feeling like shit the next day. As of late, the short-term fun of getting drunk just isn’t worth the hangover.

So I asked myself, what do I actually want to do? If there were no expectations and I could spend the day doing anything I wanted to do, what would I do?

Finally, I decided all I really wanted to do was go on a hike. So that’s what I did. I went on a 6 mile hike with my family. And it was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.

On that snapchat game: @sganddini

If there were no expectations and you could spend the day doing anything you wanted to do, what would you do? Not just on your birthday, but EVERYDAY?

I feel like I’ve spent most of my life trying to conform to what the people around me expected of me. To fit myself into a mold that I just didn’t fit in. To follow the rules and not question the rules.

But lately, I’ve been questioning. A lot. So far, it’s been extremely liberating.

It can be scary to take the road less traveled. But to me, what’s more scary is the thought of blindly following the herd and spending the rest of my life wondering, “what if?”

I don’t want to live a normal life, with a normal job, in a normal house. I don’t want to be normal. Normal scares the shit out of me.

If that’s what you want, then fine. Good for you. But if it’s not what you want, then STOP. You don’t have to do what everyone else does.

Life is too short to not live the life YOU want to live.

It Doesn’t Have To Be A Big Scary Decision

I’ve written about this before, but I can’t emphasize it enough.

To live the life you want to live, you don’t have to decide what your “one true passion” is right now. You don’t have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life right now. And you certainly don’t have to do anything as drastic as quitting your job right now.

All you have to do is start taking small steps.

In my last post, I talked about how I didn’t quit my job out of the blue. It was the culmination of everything that has happened in my life over the last five years, which has consisted of many, many small steps.

For me, it all started when I went to college and saw the opportunity for a fresh start. My main focus at the time was to become more social, but in the process of working on my social skills I realized that I had an extremely negative mindset. And the day I became aware of the fact that I was not the voice inside my head, my world flipped upside down.

So, that was the very first step: self-awareness. You can’t make any changes in your life without realizing there’s a need for a change in the first place.

It was only after gaining this newfound sense of self-awareness that I was then able to start doing things like taking cold showers, talking to strangers, putting myself in different environments, and writing about all of these experiences here on this blog.

By constantly forcing myself out of my comfort zone and learning to act in spite of fear (instead of out of fear), my self-confidence skyrocketed and I started to realize that I was capable of a lot more than I thought.

You take enough cold showers, talk to enough strangers, and force yourself to do enough things that make you uncomfortable, and you literally start to believe that you can do anything.

The confidence that you build from doing little things, no matter how small or stupid they may seem, is tremendously transferrable to all other areas of your life.

The more you do, the more you realize you’re capable of, and eventually, your entire view of the world changes. Instead of thinking that you have to be crazy to go after your dreams, you start to think that it’s crazy not to.

I remember hearing this quote from Steve Jobs a long time ago, but it wan’t until recently that it really struck a chord with me:

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

I don’t care anymore if people think I’m crazy for quitting my first-job out of college after just 6 months in order to be a full-time blogger. I’ve finally learned that it’s impossible to please everyone, no matter how hard you try, so I’m instead I’m focused on pleasing the RIGHT people.

I know what my goal is and I am committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve it. If I piss of a few people in the process, so be it. I’m more than willing to do so if that’s what it takes to change the world.

I haven’t quite “made it” yet, but I’ve come a long way from where I was 5 years ago, and it feels fucking great to know that I’m living MY life. I want you to feel that way too.

You can’t change your life overnight, but you can start taking small steps in the right direction as soon as you’re ready to. And once you get the ball rolling, your life will start to change.

If you’re tired of living the life someone else wants for you, if you feel like you’re not living a life true to yourself, or if you’re simply not happy with your life for any reason at all, I beg you to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Stop Being Selfish

Not too long ago, I felt trapped.

I felt trapped in both a relationship and a job that I didn’t want to be in.

On paper, and to everyone around me, my life looked great. I had just graduated from a prestigious university, I had a well-paying job, and I had a hot girlfriend. What more could a man ask for?

But I wasn’t happy.

It took me a long time to figure it out, but eventually I realized that the reason why I wasn’t happy and the reason why I ended up in these situations in the first place was all because I hadn’t been true to myself. I had been pretending to be someone that I wasn’t.

One of my favorite quotes by Gandhi says: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.


At the time, there was a huge misalignment in my life between my thoughts, my words, and my actions. And as a result, I was hurting not only myself, but also all parties involved. Which made me realize…

You can’t be your BEST self when you’re not being your TRUE self. And this hurts everyone. Tweet This

Some people might think that going after your dreams and wanting more than a normal life is selfish. That you should just be appreciative of what you have and be more “realistic.”

But I’d argue that not going after what you really want is selfish, because as long as you’re not being true to yourself, you can never be your best self, and this hurts everyone.

On the other hand, being true to yourself benefits everyone. If you’re currently working a job you don’t enjoy, for example, and you’re still crushing it, imagine how much you could accomplish if you were doing something you loved. Imagine how much of a bigger impact you could make in the world.

I know saying “be true to yourself” sounds cliche, but there’s a reason why cliche’s are cliches.

And this cliche should be taken extra seriously for a particularly compelling reason.

The Single Biggest Regret Of The Dying

Assuming our goal is to live a happy and successful life without regret, who better to ask for advice on how to do so than those who have already been through it all?

Bronnie Ware was an Australian nurse who spent eight years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying thoughts, epiphanies, and regrets in a blog which she ended up turning into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

In this article from the Guardian, it states that the most common regret of the dying, as witnessed by Ware, was the following:

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

Let thank sink in for a moment…

When I first read it, it gave me the chills. But it also reinforced all the decisions I’ve been making recently.

Not knowing what the future may bring is scary. But the thought of lying on my deathbed and looking back on my life with regret is the SCARIEST thing in the world.

Which is why, no matter how hard it may be, I am committed to staying true to my path and letting no one (including that voice inside my head) tell me what I can and cannot do.

I hope you’ll join me. Not just for your own sake, but for the sake of the world.

Remember, the biggest risk isn’t that you try something and nothing works out. It’s that you wake up in 5, 10, 20 years from now–or even worse, that you’re lying on your deathbed–and wish you had done something.

Start With This

If you’re ready to start living a life true to yourself, I want you to do two things today.

  1. Start questioning more. Whatever you have to do today, don’t just go through the motions. Take the time to stop and think about what you’re doing. Ask yourself, are you doing what you really want to be doing, or are you doing what you feel you have to do?
  2. What’s one little thing you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t because you’re afraid of what people will think of you? Leave a comment below, and then GO DO IT.

Interested in being 1 of the 15 pilot members for early access to my 30 day “Create Your Passion” course? Details here.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Unsplash

About Stefano

Stefano Ganddini

Hey there! I'm the creator of Collegetopia and the guy who writes all these articles. I'm here to help you live BIG, do EPIC shit, & be HAPPY. Click here to read more.

Follow me: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

  • Tiffany

    Thanks for the powerful article. It gave me the chills too. ?

    • You’re welcome, Tiffany. Thanks for the comment. Now go do something! :)

  • Bg

    I’ve been willing to start a YT channel but I’m still insecure about it, because of pretty dumb superficial things but I’m gonna try out out what the heck. You are an inspiration, my friend, you write posts I actually read and care about.

    • YES! Go for it! What do you have to lose? Would love to see it once it’s set up :)

  • Steve

    Another great article, Stefano. I’m pretty good at putting myself outside of my comfort zone. I talked to a random girl last week for ~10 minutes. It was pretty awkward, but I’m glad I did it. But I think I need to start questioning things more. I know that I won’t give as many fucks about what people think of me when I’m older, so I figure I should start not giving fucks about what they think of me now.

    • Hahah very true. The older you get, the less fucks you give. Probably because the older you get the more you realize how limited our time really is, and it’s just not worth wasting time worrying about what other people think!

  • Hi Stefano! This is really an inspiring article. I’ve been thinking a lot these past few months basically about what you’ve been posting ie improving yourself. I am currently in my final year of uni and after this I want to do things according to my values and not what society expects of me. It’s scary to carry out my plans that have almost nothing to do with my current course, but I’ve started small eg writing on my blog and posting videos on YT. But like you’ve mentioned, it’s even scarier to not do what I feel so strongly about and regret it later. I just need to get support and be confident. So thank you and keep up the splendid work! :)

    • Hi Diyana!

      That’s so great to hear. By the way, I just checked out your YT channel and your blog and I loved it! Your content is excellent. Keep putting yourself out there and, with time, people will start to notice. One piece of advice: you should post your YT videos on your blog as well (I didn’t see them there).

      Looking forward to seeing your progress. Let me know if you have any questions :)


  • You always inspire me, Stefano. So, I’ve always wanted to sing, while playing guitar. I’ve wanted to be the frontman of a band. While I can play decently, I cannot say the same for my voice. I’m afraid people might throw shoes at me if I performed in front of them. And that is why I never did.

    • Hi Mayank,

      Well, why not start by playing for a friend, and see what they say? Or just upload a video to YouTube and see what happens. Just start small. No matter what, you’ll never know unless you give it a shot.

      Also, make sure it’s something you really want, and that you don’t just want the result. Read this article to better understand what I’m talking about:


      • Oh yes, I’ll go do that.

  • Oops! I entered my other email address and anonymous name here. It was saved in my browser. Yeah, this comment section needs a delete (and maybe an edit) feature.

    • I fixed it. Not quite sure how to go about doing that right now, but planning to do a redesign of the whole website soon so I’ll try to see if I can figure it out then!

      • You could just use Disqus or something. There are a lot of good comment systems readily available.

  • What’s up, Stefano!?

    Self Awareness! Yaaaaaaassssss. It’s so incredibly important. I’m horrified to think what I’d be like without it. Sends shivers down my spine…

    Loved the article! it happens to align with a few things that have seemed to be floating around my head just under the surface and resurfacing from time to time.

    The one thing I’m going to do is to become a better friend. I was never really taught what that means or how to go about it. I’ve always looked to give sincere and honest appreciation, listen (I mean really listen— not the put on my listening face while I’m thinking about the poop I’m going to take later type of listening), and look to understand as opposed to judging one’s behaviors and feelings. I’ve had trouble finding the balance of giving people space and “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

    So in summary, I’m really looking to practice the art of non-resistance. To be like water and allow things to flow.

    Keep up the good work! As we say in our acting group: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    • Hey Nick,

      Great quote. And yep, self awareness is really at the core of almost everything I talk about, I just don’t usually explicitly use the word self awareness.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but what you’re describing sounds like the type of problem that lots of introverts tend to have (myself included, sometimes) of wanting to connect with people on a deeper level, so they want to skip all the surface layer small talk and get straight to the point. But the problem is that when you do this you often end up saying or doing things that seem out of place because your’e not following proper social etiquette. If this is what you’re struggling with, here’s a video that helped me better understand the importance of “playing the game” and appreciating the art of small talk:


      • A million thanks. That was incredibly helpful. I love how there are always things to work on.

        The saying: “The tombstone will be my diploma” always proves true.

        Thanks again!

  • dan

    very powerful and so true thanks so much btw i suggest you to use ‘disqus’ to imrpove your comments system on your blog and im sure it will bring many many more traffic-comments as it kinda annyoing fill it this way and every blog those days has upgraded to use that function :) so thats my 2 cents hope i helped too as you help me!

    • Thanks, Dan! I’ll definitely be looking into using Disqus for the comment system when I redesign the whole site (planning to get to it within the next month… hopefully sooner!) :)

  • Josh

    Just found this blog, and while you go about it in a different way, it is so wonderful to see someone else really LIVING!! I am an art student, and it is so hard to ignore my own head and the people around me. But every day I have to decide to be an artist, to live the life so few other people choose. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • You’re welcome! And I totally feel you… sometimes it can feel like it’s you against the world, but you have to EMBRACE THE RESISTANCE. Here’s a quote from one of my all-time favorite books called The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield:

      “The more important a call or action is to your soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

      You should check it out, I think you’d like it!

  • KPJ

    Hey Stefano, great blog. Your articles are pretty good. Your words have a certain sincerity, which I feel other similar blogs lack. Good work!
    Anyway, my issue is with a stream change in engineering. Since you are yourself an engg graduate, you can probably help and guide better. I majored in civil engg this year, grades are above average, but I feel I am not cut out for civil.My interest is gravitating toward mechanical, particularly aerospace. Lucky that civil and mech have some sort of overlap, so I can switch for my masters. But just kinda scared to do so. Some days I feel bad about not doing it, other days I rationalise my choices and say-“its fine dude, civil isn’t thaat badd..” Basically my mind isnt set on a particular thing. It meanders a lot. Any advice?

    • Stefano Ganddini

      What’re you scared of? What do you have to lose by making the switch? What do you have to lost by NOT making the switch? If you know you are more interested in mechanical, why wouldn’t you make the switch?

      If the reason you’re scared is because you’re unsure if you’ll actually end up liking mechanical more, then you need to “test” it out somehow. Take a class, start a small side project, or do something to gain more experience in that field so that you can be sure you’re making the right move before you fully commit to it.

      You might be able to rationalize to yourself that it’s “not that bad”… but why settle? Life is too short to settle.