Home » Nothing to Regret – Small Bad Habits Cause Lifelong Regrets: Iman Aghay at TEDxStanleyPark (Transcript)

Nothing to Regret – Small Bad Habits Cause Lifelong Regrets: Iman Aghay at TEDxStanleyPark (Transcript)

Iman Aghay


Have you ever wanted to say something, but you didn’t because you were afraid of being judged or getting rejected? Have you ever done something that you didn’t want to only because of others’ expectations? Have you ever missed out on being with your family and friends because you were working for too many hours? Nine out of ten people regret something big in their lives. Think about that; nine out of ten people regret something big in their lives.

Many of these regrets are caused by our own small daily choices, and when we make these choices on a regular basis, they turn into regret-causing bad habits. We spend far too many hours on social media checking fun profile after the next one, video share this, share that, and then hours are gone. We watch for too much TV. An average adult watches five hours of TV every day. We keep buying things that we don’t even need because there are great deals and there are sales.

Among us, there is a small group of people who had a unique life-changing experience that helped them dump the regret-causing bad habits one by one, and very quickly I hope you never experience what these people experienced, but learn from the lessons they learned.

Here is why: the first step of this experience requires you to end up on your deathbed; the second step is asking yourself three most common questions asked on a deathbed; and the third step is to survive your deathbed to apply the lessons learned. Let’s skip step one and three, and just simply ask ourselves the three most common questions asked on a deathbed.

How do I know these questions? One day in October 2010, I started bleeding internally. I was rushed to the hospital where doctors realized I lost 60% of my blood, but they couldn’t find the source of the bleeding so they couldn’t stop it. I was literally bleeding dry. I was told in a way I may not see the next day. That was a heck of a wake-up call. When I was growing up, my dad was an entrepreneur, and he was a very good entrepreneur, but he used to work really, really hard although we were living in the same home.

There were times that I hadn’t seen my dad for three months in a row because he would leave home before we woke up, and he would come back home after we went to sleep, but he had a plan. He wanted to retire at age 53 and go enjoy his passion which was traveling the world, with my mom, going to Europe, and Africa, and Asia, and see the wonders of the world so we’re very happy for him. We were like, “Work hard and retire early and go do whatever you want to do in your life.”

But when my dad turned 50, he was diagnosed with a disease called ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS in most cases kills the patient within three to five years. When my dad turned 53, he passed away; he never retired, he never enjoyed his life. He died with massive regrets. My dad’s premature death made me decide to never postpone my happiness. And there I was, right before my 27th birthday, on my own deathbed. That showed me life can be really short, and it can end at any point with no announcement.

As I was lying on my deathbed, holding my wife’s hand, looking at her, knowing that this can be one of our last moments, I started asking myself the first question: what would I regret if I died today? According to the author of the Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who asked hundreds of people on their deathbed about their biggest regrets in their life, here are the top five regrets of the dying, “I wish I had lived a life true to myself, not a life that others expected of me,” “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard,” “I wish I had expressed my feelings,” “I wish I’d stayed in touch with friends,” and “I wish I had let myself be happier,”

What would you regret if you died today? Remember, many of these regrets are caused by our own small daily choices. When we are engaged in unfulfilling bad habits, we take away the chance from being engaged in things that help us to overcome our regrets. As far as I know, no one has ever been dying and said, “I wish I checked my social media accounts more often,” “Wait a second, death I want to check my social media.”

No one has ever been on their deathbed and saying, “I wish I’d watched more TV,” and no one has ever died saying, “I wish I’d bought more stuff.” The cause of many of our regrets is being engaged in unfulfilling bad habits. As I was lying on my deathbed thinking about the things that would regret, I started asking myself the second question, “What did I make of my life?” If you die today, this very day, would you be happy with what you’re going to leave behind? I realized I wasn’t happy with the way that I was living, I realized I had a desire to impact this world in a much bigger way, I wanted to touch hundreds of thousands of people’s lives, I wanted to inspire more people, I wanted to help more people; more importantly, I wanted to live a life true to my heart.

If we don’t plan and act on the life of our dreams, we end up settling for a life that happens to us. Sit relaxed on your chair, and close your eyes; take a deep breath, put your hand on your heart, feel your heartbeat, and ask yourself this question: am I living a life true to my heart? If we don’t plan and act on the life of our dreams, we will end up settling for a life of many regrets.

Open your eyes. In the end, this comes down to our small daily choices. Whenever you are making a decision, ask yourself whether or not that decision contributes to your dream, and if you don’t know the baby steps that take you to your dream, that’s your first step. Figure out the baby steps that will lead to your dream. Get a mentor, read a book, take a course, give it a few days of your undivided attention, hustle for it until you figure out the steps, and if you fail, which you will, it’s OK, it’s OK; just continue hustling until you bring your dream into reality.

Back at the hospital. As the time passed, my bleeding stopped on its own, just out of luck, and after receiving five bags of blood transfusion which was half of what I needed and all they could give me, I started having a little bit of hope that I may survive my deathbed today so I started asking myself the third question, “What would I change if I survived my deathbed today?”

Most people think that death is scary, but many survivors say they weren’t scared of dying; they were scared of losing everything that mattered to them including their family, their future, their dreams, everything they had worked hard for. Change is hard because with change comes loss; loss of the past situation, loss of comfort at a certain level, loss of security of some sort. But to a person who just experienced losing everything, and I mean everything, including their life, there is no loss; that is scary. That’s why people who survive their deathbed turn into unstoppable regret-causing bad-habit dumping machines.

So I ask you this question: what habits must you change that are standing between you and your dreams? Make a list of those bad habits and start changing them and dumping them one by one. Doctors didn’t find out why I bled in the first place and the source of my bleeding until two years later when I was diagnosed with cancer. I beat my cancer and have been living cancer-free for the past four years. But more importantly, ending up on my deathbed made me start living a life true to myself. I was released from the hospital the day before my 27th birthday, and since then, I’ve seen every single morning as a gift; a gift that can shape the rest of my life.

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