In 2009, Bronnie Ware wrote a blog post about her experiences as a palliative nurse. She worked caring for patients during the last twelve weeks of their lives and made note of their most common regrets.
This blog post went viral, gaining over a million views in a year and landing her a book deal. Her book, ‘The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying’, sells well to this day and, in this blog post, I’m going to explore these regrets, offering you solutions for how to avoid missing out on what’s most important in life.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. . . All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
Take a look at the picture above. If you work an employed role, in a non-executive position, this might accurately depict your current situation.
Why are you working so hard? Beyond the need to put food on your table, which is totally understandable, why are you busting your balls for a job that would replace you within a week?
Is it a misguided sense of loyalty? Is it societal conditioning, making you think you’re a slacker if you don’t work beyond your contracted hours?
Why do you do it?
If the reason is anything other than necessity or because you love your work, then start cutting back.
You may think these suggestions are naive, and that financial and work practise necessities won’t allow for such freedom, but what choice have you got?
Would you rather end up on your death bed, regretting spending 40 to 50 hours a week of pretty much your entire adult life being somewhere you didn’t want to be, doing things you didn’t want to do?
“Many people supressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
Don’t keep it locked inside. Whether it’s at work, in a relationship or creatively, you must express yourself.
This might mean telling your team you have an idea for a new product or that you think a campaign should go in a new direction. It might mean telling your boss you’re not happy about a situation.
In a relationship, it might mean expressing your love for another person without fear they’ll reject you. Or, it could mean expressing something you’re not happy about without fear of offending them.
There might be things you want to say and create. Maybe you have a message to share with the world but are afraid how people will react to it. Perhaps there’s a product you want to build, or a picture you want to paint, but are concerned it might fail.
Whatever the case, and in whatever the situation, do not fear the consequences. Far worse than ridicule or rejection, is the possibility of illness or loss of spirit.
Bronnie Ware mentions that, ‘Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried.’ Cortisol, the stress hormone, has been linked with a multitude of illnesses and conditions from hyperglycaemia to supressed thyroid function and high blood pressure.
On top of that, nobody loves a bland personality. Sure, they might leave you alone and think you’re ok, but to trigger deeper emotions, you must stand for something and be willing to express it. Just look at Muhammad Ali, never afraid to express his feelings and opinions, he went from being vilified to universally loved.
“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.”
Why do we lose touch with our friends? To answer that question, we must look at where most people spend their time and what they prioritise.
When we’re not working or commuting, if we’re married, it’s likely we’re spending time with our family. Where we once lived in tribes, villages or communities, The System is driving us into ever smaller family units. We have our husband or wife, our one to three children and that’s it. The old saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ no longer applies. Time spent apart from the family is viewed as selfish and, as a result, we must give up our friends and pastimes.
To find a solution to this regret, you must fight societies conditioning and rethink current ways of working and living. Perhaps working longer, in attempt to get wealthier, isn’t the answer. Maybe spending more time with your family, in an attempt to appear selfless, isn’t either.
What would happen if you worked less and focused more on your quality of life? And, would your relationship actually improve if you spent less time with your significant other and more time engaged in soul enriching activities like seeing friends, travelling and hobbies?
You have a choice. If you want to create a new societal norm then you must take stand. The status quo is maintained because of apathy and acquiescence. Start saying ‘no’ and it gives others permission to do the same.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice.”
Avoid a ‘I’ll be happy when . . .’ mentality. I’ve met people who won’t allow themselves to be happy because they haven’t got a job. Sometimes, I don’t allow my happiness to flow as freely because I’m not yet a bestselling author and, am so focused on that goal, I forget what’s important in life.
For you, it might be because you’re not in a relationship or because you don’t have children. You might be a perfectionist and find it hard to be happy unless everything in your life is perfect (good luck with that one!).
Whenever I lose sight of the fact that happiness is a choice, I remind myself of a Tyler Durden quote, “This is the greatest moment of your life and you’re off somewhere missing it.”
All you have is right now! This moment. That’s it. If you can’t be happy with it then what makes you think, two or three years down the line when you achieve the goal you imagine your happiness is dependent upon, you will be then? You won’t. You’ll just be looking for a new goal to achieve or circumstance you imagine is blocking your happiness to be put right.
Break out of this cycle. You don’t want to look back on your life and realise there was nothing preventing you from being happy. What could you experience and achieve today if you live with that knowledge?
I hope you’ve found this blog post useful. If so, please share with a friend and, remember, if you want more great content then sign up below.
(image taken from RedJinn photostream flickr.com)
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