Is it simply too late to turn your life around?
Bronnie Ware, amongst other things is an author and inspirational speaker. She worked for 8 years as a palliative nurse providing care for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She found that when they talked about their biggest regrets there were common themes in their responses. She started recording these findings in a blog called called Inspiration and Chai, which eventually lead to her writing a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
The following are the top five regrets observed and written by Ware in her blog. In each section I offer my perspective with some helpful tips for making sure you begin to live a life free from regrets.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. 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.
Tip. Are you in a job that feeds your passion or are you just going through the motions because you need money. Maybe you were pushed into your career by your parents or a school careers officer. Maybe there has always been something you have wanted to do but you have responsibilities. You love your job but there is something in your personal life that is missing, something you would love to do but are worried what people will think of you. Take some time to reflect on those long forgotten dreams you had. If a big career or life change is not possible yet, how can you start to introduce them back into your life? Is there something you can do within the volunteering sector that can help you fulfil those dreams. Is there a hobby or maybe even a group that you can join with like minded people? Don’t wait till it too late honour those dreams.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
Tip. Although Ware found this regret mostly in her male patient’s women now make up 47% of the UK workforce. The UK also works the longest weekly hours of any country in the EU. We can’t escape work but it should not become our main focus in life. It seems at times the more money we earn the money we spend. A life rich in money is often a life poor in time. Ask yourself, do you actually need that new car every few years or upgrade to the latest Smartphone that seems to be coming out every month. If you having to work hours of overtime to fiancé your life then take a step back and look at exactly what you are spending your money on. Are there areas where you can cut down. In these hard times, money is an issue but there are so many things that you and your family can do together that do not cost a fortune. Sometime the greatest most expensive gift you can give it your time. Time and tide wait for no man or woman, so don’t wait till yours runs out before you made this change.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed 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.
Tip. This can be a big issue for most of us, we often feel that we cannot say what we really feel because we don’t want to upset those around us, especially if we have some form of relationship with that person i.e. work colleagues, friends or family. When trying to put our point across it's not so much what we say but the way we say it that really counts. Phrases like ‘You make me feel’ or ‘You never listen’ are counterproductive because they lay the blame with the other person and it will trigger an instance defensive response. Instead use the phrases ‘I am not feeling... or ‘I think… might be a better way’ The use of the word ‘I’ is far less confrontational and will open up honest dialogue. In the end your feelings and dreams are just as important as the next persons. If you feel you cannot be open and honest about how you are feeling you may need to ask yourself what it is about the relationship that prevents you from doing so and what needs to change.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise 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 their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
Tip. Living in this digital age really is a double edge sword. Mediums such as facebook and twitter allow us to stay in contact with friends who live too far away for us to physically visit. However it is so easy just to send a post of tweet to a friend who lives just down the road then to actually spend any time with them. We also seem to lives such hectic busy lives that there never seems to be enough time to get in touch or visit those friends who mean so much to us, after all they will always be there right? All too often we just seem to drift apart without actually realising it until it is too late. Friendships like anything else need to nurtured and looked after. Facebook is great but it can’t replace the sheer joy and fun spent in the company of people who we have chosen to be in our lives. Make the effort to reach out to friends you have not contact for a while. Set out time specifically to meet up with friends and don’t let other life events takes precedence. Friendship is one of life purest treasures don’t squander it.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. 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 themselves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
Tip. Happiness is an elusive beast. We all hunt it and it seems that everyone else has it apart from us. The mistake we make is that happiness is not of a state of being; it’s a state of thinking. It is not linked to how much you earn and how many possession you own. Mahatma Gandhi was quotes as saying that “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”. Psychology research has theorised that we all have a happiness set-point which can increase, making our more happy, when positive things happen. It has shown that happiness is a choice that anyone can make. William James, a psychologist stated “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude”. So happiness is something we can start to introduce by the way we think about our life. When things are not going your way try to find the positives in every situation. Smile, research has shown that finding things that make us smile has a positive effect on lifting our mood. Practice gratitude every day, don’t look at what you don’t have but instead change focus to all that you do have. Happiness is within your hands or to be more precise within your head.
Tags:Life Regrets Happy Dying Bronnie Ware
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