With the arrival of winter I love observing the transformation as Mother Nature covers the mountains in a fluffy blanket of white snow. It’s hard not to be inspired by the beauty in the bareness of my early morning rides as the once green and lush landscape is transformed into a forest of what appears to be death and decay. After 43 years of witnessing the seasons change, there’s a deep knowing inside of me that this too shall pass and where currently there is nothing except for bare necessity, there will be brilliant new life again in spring.
Not so for our bodies.
As I continue to observe the way in which people take life for granted, I can’t help but wonder how many of them will die unexpectedly, filled with regret for a life un-lived.
Enter the study by Bronnie Ware, a nurse who worked in palliative care. Her patients were those who had gone home to die. She was the person who witnessed the last 3 to 12 weeks of their lives, their constant companion as they took stock of years gone by.
Death has a way of intensifying life – the growth, the insights, the emotions. All amplified in the final days to give the soul an opportunity to review. What Bronnie discovered was that across all of her patients, there were definite themes when it came to the regrets people had looking back over their lives.
Today I am sharing with you the top 5 regrets that Bronnie identified with the hope that you will take the time to evaluate your life, before it is too late.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I wonder at times exactly when it was decided sacrifice was honorable? When did society define our roles and how we should behave in order for us to be considered ‘good’ people?
Every dream we have, every desire we feel, is there for a reason. It’s the experiences which promotes the growth that reveals the best versions of ourselves. Choosing to give up on our dreams is settling for the dilluted version of self.
Instead of giving up on your dreams, start asking how can you live them? Which actions can you start taking to make your desires become your reality?
Use whatever life is giving you at the moment, get inspired and create a life that astounds us!
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This regret came from every male patient that Bronnie nursed. I have a feeling that today women will be right up there with them since so many have become the breadwinners in their families.
This regret was not really around work itself, but that which was sacrificed in life due to the amount of time spent at work. Missed experiences with children, missed opportunities to love partners, not having the energy to live more, do more, laugh more.
And for what? A paycheck?
The deeper my studies of the psychology of wealth, the more I understand that the reason why people are working themselves to death without ever reaching a point of satisfaction, is because they’re not questioning what they truly desire in life in order for them to feel wealthy. Tony Robbins demonstrates this by breaking wealth down into components of time, health, relationships, contribution and money. Without experiencing satisfaction in all these areas, you’ll be left feeling like another Mick Jagger where you “can’t get no satisfaction”.
Maybe it’s time to ask yourself the purpose of work? Is it really to create the life of your dreams? And if so, what does that life even look like? If you’re working purely because you were raised that responsible adults work and you are not working smartly towards the goals that light you up, you are once again at the mercy of existence.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
With the introduction of smart phones, apps and social media that has us communicating with smiley faces, likes and LOLs, true communication is an art that’s in severe danger of extinction. Top that with the amount of criticism and public shame that can flare up in an instant from complete strangers who interpret whatever is said from wherever they find themselves emotionally at the moment, and it’s no wonder that few have the courage to express their true feelings.
And without true communication there can be no true relationships.
Instead of communicating our true feelings, all we desire is to keep the peace. So we settle for mediocre relationships in our mediocre lives with as few waves as possible. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t upset anyone around you. Whatever you do – don’t you dare surround yourself with meaningful relationships where differences are celebrated and encouraged!
When we start speaking our truth from a place of love, our lives transform.
Not everyone is going to enjoy this change and some might even leave your life. The good news is that the ones who stay will probably stay forever AND support you in being your truest self. I fail to see a down side.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
When you’re lying down drawing your last breath, all the ‘stuff’ that you have accumulated over the years become pretty meaningless. Instead what matter most to people are the relationships they’ve had throughout their lives.
Friendships, lasting friendships, take some form of effort. It’s really easy to get caught up in life and the hustle of everyday existence. It’s easy to lose touch with those who brought depth to our experience of life. But the effort will be worth it as in the end it is all about love and relationships.
Get off social media and start working on your real friendships. Schedule time with friends into your diary the way you would any business meeting. Talk – with your voice not your fingers. Look into their eyes. Give them a hug. Let the sound of their laughter bubble over your lips.
Make a memory.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Do you realize that happiness truly is a choice?
Happiness is a feeling, and we create our feelings through what we choose to focus on and the words we choose to describe our experience of life. Yet so few people have the discipline to control their minds. Instead they stay victims to the broken records and the destructive habits that is on auto because it’s easier.
Whoever said misery loves company really knew what they were talking about. In Roget’s Thesaurus there is 1051 words to describe positive emotions compared to a whopping 2286 words to describe negative emotions. Need I say more?
Abraham Hicks talks about the purpose of life as ultimately being joy. That’s right – the only purpose you HAVE in life is to be happy. Why do we feel this constant need to over-complicate things and make it all so damn hard?
Just choose to be happy – right now! You’re powerful enough to do it and you’re definitely worth it.
In conclusion – if you’re reading this it means you’re not dead yet!
You have the opportunity to make the rest of your life the absolute best of your life.
- Read through the regrets again
- Assess your life and see how you’re doing in each of these areas.
- Decide what you want these areas to truly look like so that you will lie on your deathbed, wink at the nurse and tell her that you have zero regrets.
- Most importantly, start taking the actions today that will lead to a happier tomorrow.
As always, death is inevitable. But thriving, that is a choice.