Shoulda Kissed Her
Just over a month ago, I met up with an old friend who graduated medical school. He was entering the field of palliative care and we started taking about this blog post I had come across, about the Top Five Regrets of People on Their Deathbed. The idea there is summarized nicely and concisely by this xkcd cartoon:
Of course, thanks to Randall Munroe’s massive observer effects, those stats (including the stat cited by the rollover text, And nothing for ‘I’m glad I saw Epic Movie.’) no longer hold true… yes… I did an audit… … but that’s not the point… the point is, 1) the author of this comic picked up on a poetic truth about people’s personal (and private) reflective moments, using the results of a search engine algorithm, and 2) the example of this truth began to fade the moment it became a public spectacle.
To put it another way:
- people, more often than not, regret the things they didn’t try doing, and
- this regret is less apparent when one is under the social pressure of public observation.
In some field research conducted last year at Newcastle University, a group of scientists — building on previous studies — demonstrated how merely hanging up posters of staring human eyes is enough to significantly change people’s behavior. We are wired to detect objects that resemble human eyes… and when we detect something that looks like an eye it triggers certain responses.
We think the world is watching us — we are the center of our private universes — and indeed sometimes it’s a really good idea to ask ourselves the question “What should I do if the world was watching?” However, a lot of times we unnecessarily inhibit ourselves from making the leap — from seizing the moment — because of imagined eyes watching us.
There are times in a the story of a person’s life — usually those turning points or later chapters of the story — where the person feels freed of social pressures and can fully regret/not regret the roads taken/not taken, the blind alleys visited/not visited.
When we take a big step back (Les), we can see that we are defined as much by our “failures” as we are our “successes” and we celebrate both as necessary and integral parts of a unique and complete story.
What will happen today — what will you do — to make that story an even better one?