Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
Late last Spring I wrote a blog entry about an article that was making the social media rounds. The article was written by Bonnie Ware, a former palliative care nurse who worked primarily with the dying and detailed the 5 most common regrets of her patients over the years. And if there is anyone to remind us just how good we have it in the present then it is those who’s present is most fleeting.
Tonight I reread what I'd written and was struck by how easy it is to read this and be moved, yet still not live your words. My hope is that in publishing this here it helps me keep accountable to my clarity below.
So here we go, the top 5 regrets of the dying, in no particular order:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
We are taught from such an early age to associate our worth with what others can measure: status, wealth and material goodies. But if we stop salivating at the sound of the bell and start focusing that energy instead on what truly makes us happy – makes us us – then we’ll really start getting somewhere positive as a world.
Imagine if all those financial executives who so willingly took advantage of the misinformed had actually gone on to pursue what they had really wanted as an unconditioned child. Perhaps they wanted to be a firefighter or artist or dancer or scientist yet due to their conditioning they sought power and money above all else. And to run with that analogy, what if those who truly sought to manage finance from an early age – the ones running the micro-finance programs of the world today – controlled our banking system. How the world would be different!
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
If you’re like the majority of us who will tell a friend to not work so hard but not hold yourself to this mantra, then make it your mantra. Repeat it 500 times. Say it over and over until you get it. Until you allow yourself to feel it. And then start living it.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
To those you love, tell them. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Love is one of our greatest gifts as humans. It’s in our interest to surround ourselves with it while we have the chance. Give it to strangers, give it to animals, give it to the earth, give it to your friends and give it to your family. The beauty of love is that the more you give out, the more you get back. It’s not a one way street.
And if you’re struggling with anger or having to forgive someone. Try first finding gratitude. The most accessible of our high emotions, feeling gratitude is an incredible tool for accessing acceptance, forgiveness, happiness and love. So be grateful, you’ll be amazed at what comes from it.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Call them. Plan to meet with them. Better yet, surprise them at their work or home with some coffee or a bottle of wine. True, some friends will always be there for you, no matter how long you’re out of touch, but why bother waiting? You’ll only have this time in your life once, so you may as well take full advantage and celebrate the goodness with those you love most.
And by the way, this means real interactions. Facebook et al are great for keeping in touch, but do little for supplanting the power of face to face interactions. Get off your toosh and make a date.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This one gives me goosebumps. It rings very true for me. The message: stop being so hard on yourself. Do what you can but be realistic. You’re human and as you know, it always gets done somehow.
Take ownership. Do things that make you smile, laugh and love. Dance more. Sing more – even if you’re no good. Do art. Spend time in nature. Marvel at the little things and the big things and the fact that it’s all just nuts that life is what it is (when you really stop to think about it, it really is nuts).
And note, this doesn’t mean you always have to be happy. It’s ok to be sad sometimes. The key is to find balance, and especially to not withhold happiness from yourself.
A heartfelt THANK YOU to those who came before us. (here's looking at you Grandma)