A theory on how the brain processes and remembers time is that it counts time by the number of experiences. For example, if you attend a party and meet many new people and have an exciting, fun time, then your brain will remember that day as feeling longer and with much more detail. In contrast, a normal, boring work day may not even register as a memory, because there is nothing new to remember.
This sounds obvious, but the theory has relevant implications. Look back on your past week and try to remember what you did. Do you remember the weather three days ago, what you talked about with your friend over coffee five days ago, or what song was playing while you were doing paperwork?
It is not uncommon for our brain to go into autopilot and forget menial, daily routines. In other words, the more standardised and automated your daily life is, your brain will remember those times as “less time”. Ergo, the life you look back on is shorter than what it could have been if you stop having new experiences. Is that not such a waste?
Compare this to when you travel or start a new relationship. You are exposed to so many new stimuli and experiences that your brain light ups and frantically records every detail (the heightened emotions play a role also). This is why we can remember the scent of our partner, the conversations we had with a stranger we met in a French bookshop, and what movie was playing in the background when you had your first kiss. These are moments that you can remember in better detail than you can remember entire years.
The bottom line is that a boring life a short life. A way to make the most of the short time we have in life would be to continue having new experiences as we grow old. Travel the world, meet new people, try things you normally wouldn’t, fall in love and push your horizons.
Otherwise, you may end up on your deathbed looking back on your life, regretting that your highlight reel is much shorter than you expected.
You will never regret being kind. You will never regret having hope. You will never regret prioritising happiness. You will never regret being yourself. You will never regret taking chances.
People think regret is born out of bad choices, but more often than not, regret is the result of not making a choice. Taking a chance may come with consequences, but that is a risk we have to take. Because if you’re too afraid of consequences or being hurt and refuse to take action on the important things, life will pass you by in the blink of an eye and you might miss it. On your deathbed, it won’t be the decisions you made that you regret, but the bites you didn’t take.
Happiness is an active process, not something that will come to you passively. So choose to be kind and choose to be hopeful. Choose to laugh and choose to love. Choose to be the person you want to be, living the life you want to live.
If you ask a hundred children what their dream is, not a single one would say “I want to be successful”. But as children grow up and enter society, society advises them that dreams do not feed them. And so, children slowly lose their innocence and dreams and choose to chase success instead. Why? Because success will feed them and give them a secure future. It is uncommon to find a middle-aged person who has achieved their childhood dreams. The majority judge their dreams as unrealistic, put them away in a corner of their mind and sacrifice happiness to earn more money to feed the family. The child who wanted to become a painter who put the world on a canvas follows her parents’ advice and becomes a lawyer. The child who wanted to become an astronaut is working into the night at a bank so that he will be promoted. They devote themselves to work and strive to succeed. But when they are at their deathbed, the only thing they are left with is regrets.
In life, there is no success or failure. The only moment you will know whether you led a successful or failed life is when you are at your deathbed. No one else can judge whether you were a success or a failure. Whether you were rich, poor, famous, average, lived long or died prematurely, you were a success if you can end your life with this thought: “Yeah, I lived a happy life without regrets”.