Don’t wait to live the life you want to live
I read an article written by Bronnie Ware, who worked in palliative care for many years, providing care and comfort for people at the end of their lives. Her message is important enough to spread around to everyone.
In talking with her many patients, she recognized a common thread when people talk about regrets and how they’d live their lives differently if given the chance. When questioned about regrets they had or if they’d do anything differently, some common themes surfaced. These were the five most common regrets:
1. “I wish I had had the courage to live a life true to my nature instead of one others expected of me.”
This was reported to be the most common regret of all. When people realize their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it’s easy to see what dreams went unfulfilled. Most people haven’t lived even half the dreams they had and died knowing that it all came down to the choices they’d made…or not made.
It’s important you try and live out your most important dreams. Don’t go to your grave with your best music left inside you. Leave this life used up. It’s too late once you lose your health. Health brings a freedom few realize, until it’s gone.
2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”
Most of the men the caregiver spoke to were of an older generation – every one of them had this regret. They missed out on their children growing up, and the important events in their lives. They also regretted missing out on the closeness of their partner’s companionship. They traded quality time with their family for money. There were some women who also admitted having this regret as well. All of them deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
Simplify your lifestyle and make conscious choices about how you will live your life along the way. It is possible to scale back and live simpler. By creating more space and taking control of your personal time, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
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.
Be open and authentic. We can’t control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”.
Often the patients would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying days, and then it wasn’t always possible to track them down. These people had become so caught up in their own lives they had precious friendships whither over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People want to get their affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks: love and relationships.
Your friends are the gold lining in life. You can’t pick your relatives, but you do pick your friends. Cultivate and care for your friends. Make time for them and for yourself.
5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
This is surprisingly common. Most of the patients didn’t realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called “comfort”, the contentment 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. What they truly desired deep down was a longing to laugh heartily and have silliness in their life again.
Along with their regrets she said each of the patients experienced emotions you’d expect: denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. The saving grace is that she also said every single patient found peace before departing. Every one of them.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. It doesn’t matter at all.
How wonderful it is to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is your life. Choose consciously, choose wisely and choose honestly. Choose happiness.
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