Top Five Regrets Of The Dying – What It Can Teach Us About Living
It has been a good week for Leaving Work Behind. I expended an enormous amount of time and energy compiling the LWB 100 because I had a belief that it would be a genuinely useful resource for my readers.
Thankfully, it was time well spent. Relative to the size of my blog, it has been a huge success - in just two days, it has become the most-read post on the blog of all time.
And so I sat down today to write this post, knowing that I have lots of new readers. It is therefore fitting that I should follow up my most successful post to date with an article that really defines the message of this blog – that life should not be full of compromise.
I believe that we all have the power to create lifestyles that revolve around what we want from life (time to spend with loved ones, location independence, freedom from the shackles of a 9-5 career), not what we need from life (money to pay the bills, food on the table).
It is also fitting that the inspiration for this post came from one of my new readers, Rob. Thank you Rob, for drawing my attention to something so truly thought-provoking and inspiring.
I read an article a couple of days ago. Its author, Bonnie Ware, spent several years as a palliative nurse, caring for those with terminal illnesses. She had a window into something that many of us do not see until it is too late – the regrets of the dying. I dare say that many of us get through a lot of years before we stop to think about how we might reflect upon our actions (or inactions) in old age.
There are few things in life that are more destructive than regret. Although I am just 26 years old, I regret many of the things about my past. Things I hope I never have to endure again. Things that I wish I had never done. And perhaps most regrettably, things that I wish I had done. It is those regrets that drive me to get everything I want out of life.
But it is regret that can make life so unfulfilling. Those little moments in life – the mistakes, the omissions, the inactions – they add up over time, and eventually they define us. I do not want to be defined by my regret, and I am sure that you feel the same.
So today, I want to explore five ways in which you can avoid regret, by reflecting upon the most common regrets of the dying.
1. Live For Yourself
I wish I’d had the courage to life a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
It is difficult not to shape your actions based upon an expectation of how others will react. As social creatures, we crave the acceptance of others. Doing something that risks our acceptance is seen as a risky path, and one best avoided.
But have you ever stopped to think about why? What is it that drives you to try to appease those who will never walk in your shoes? It is your life to live – not theirs.
Any person who does not support your aspirations is not someone whose opinion you should value (tweet this).
2. Never Forget That Life Is For Living
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
Don’t let your work define your life. Because at the end of the day, it should not be what brings you ultimate fulfillment. There must be more to life.
To enjoy your work is a true blessing, but a fulfilling life must offer balance. No matter how much you love your work, always make room for the most important things.
We must all strive to make work but a small part of a life well lived (tweet this).
3. Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
The vast majority of us are reserved, at least to an extent. I personally have spent most of my life bottling up my feelings, and I have paid the price.
You can learn from actions that you would have been wiser not to carry out, but you learn nothing from inaction. Do not get fooled into thinking that the path of least resistance is without risk.
Do not live life in regret. Cherish foolhardiness, and embrace the courage you have to express your feelings (tweet this).
4. Never Undervalue What Is Most Important
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I am terrible at keeping in touch with my friends and family, and am perpetually reminding myself to try harder. It is something that I live in regret of right now. And yet, there are people I care about that I haven’t seen or even spoken to for months.
The realization that such regret will only grow over time will empower me to be a better friend to those who are most important to me.
Nothing in life is more important than your friends and family (tweet this).
5. Empower Yourself
I wish that I had let myself be happier.
You are not selfish to want to be happy. It is only possible to serve others effectively when you are truly content. If you don’t prioritize your own happiness, you will only drain those around you of their own contentment.
Any free human being has the chance to be happier. Happiness is not an absolute emotion – there is no pinnacle, no peak. All you can do is work towards providing yourself with the best environment for happiness.
The sooner you recognize that you are in control of your own happiness, the sooner you will be happier (tweet this).
Cherish Your Time
Reading the regrets of the dying was like traveling forwards through time to experience something that must be avoided at all costs. It is clear to me that living a life with few regrets is only possible amongst those who truly recognize that our time on earth is finite.
So please, join me in working towards a life that is as devoid of regret as possible. We will make fools of ourselves. We will risk ridicule. We will take risks. We will lose, and we will gain. We will profit, and we will suffer. But we will do it all without an ounce of regret.
And then when the time comes – we will look back and smile.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Jason A. Howie