When you envision yourself years from now looking back on your life, what do you see? Do you see a life well-lived, or are you filled with regrets?
In the book The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, author, Bronnie Ware, explores this very subject. As a palliative nurse caring for patients during the last months of their lives, she had the chance to learn the most common things people regretted in their own lives. I haven’t read the book, but an article on The Guardian recently caught my attention. I guess I’m not the only one who took notice– although it was written over a year ago, it is still making the rounds on social media. And so I present this to you. Now is the time to do something and learn from others, so you don’t end up sharing the following regrets.
Do you have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect of you?
This was #1 on her list. The author explained that when people looked back on their lives, they noticed how many dreams and plans they missed out on. She said that “most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”
Do you work too hard?
Many people get stuck on the work treadmill and miss out on life experiences with their families and children. Regardless of the reasons they have for doing so, they forget to enjoy life and miss out on other sources of fulfillment. They believe that hard work will bring success and that success will bring happiness. Actually, it’s the other way around: happiness must come first, and in turn success will follow.
Do you have the courage to express your feelings?
We are taught to put others’ feelings before our own. Have you ever caught yourself holding on to information because you worry about how that might make another person feel? While empathy is important, sometimes we take it too far and suppress our own important feelings. We have the false belief that sharing our feelings will only leave us vulnerable, or make us seem obnoxious or rude, or whatever consequence it is we worry about. Ware observed that people frequently “settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming” as a result of neglecting their own feelings.
Do you stay in touch with your friends, or do you take these friendships for granted?
It’s easy become so caught up in our own lives and obligations that we forget about other important relationships. Sometimes we don’t realize how important friends and community are until it’s too late.
Are you allowing yourself to be happier?
The author says “this is a surprisingly common one,” but I am not surprised by this at all. The desire for happiness is everywhere! On the flip side, while there is a huge demand and desire for happiness, the more I interact with different people, the more I begin to see that many don’t find it because they don’t even realize it’s a choice. Ware found that “many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice, [and instead] they had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.” Wow. What a waste of a good thing.
At the end of the article, the author asks her audience:
What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?
Hmm… that sounds like something I would ask at the end of one of my posts. I actually did ask myself that very question a few years ago, but my question had nothing to do with dying. It had to do with living and checking in with the course my life was taking before it was too late. I asked myself how I would feel waking up at age 65, getting ready to go into the dental office just like any other day. I knew the answer to that, and I knew I had to change. At that point, I had no choice. I didn’t want to look back on my life with regrets.
And so I ask you… what will your regrets be, or will you do something before it’s too late?