An Australian palliative care nurse named Bronnie Ware cared for dying patients in their last twelve weeks of their lives. Bronnie wrote a book titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. She asked them what was their biggest regret. She recorded the top five. Many will guess that one of them was I wish I had not worked so hard. True. It ranked as number 2. The top five are:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Look at your unfilled dreams. I have the luxury of traveling all over the world delivering leadership workshops and hope I have good health that allows me to continue to travel to interesting places long into later life. Ware says that “health brings a freedom that very few realize until they no longer have it”. What are you doing to live a life that is true to yourself versus what others say it should be? Consider this seriously before your health gets in the way.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
We hear, or say, this one often. I find that few people are passionate enough about what they do so they can wish they had more time to do the work they love. Have you found the work that you love and are passionate about? If yes, you may hope for more years to do the good work that the world needs. If not, I hope for you to challenge yourself to find work that makes you happy, energized and contributing to the world.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
Bronnie writes, "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.” Are you keeping your feelings bottled up inside? I encourage you to enter into what we call the Dangerous Conversations. They are dangerous only because the outcome is uncertain. Avoiding expressing your feelings can lead to far more disastrous results. There is an old commercial I remember that had a tag line something like “pay me now or pay me later”. What do you choose?
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Bronnie says, “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." I have always craved new relationships and as I age I realize how many friendships have faded away. Now I reminisce more about past relationships that have been lost over the years. Anyone you wish you had stayed in touch with? What will you do about it?
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
She says about number 5, “Many did not realize 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 their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again." This is a big one. Are you choosing to be happy? Do you see life in an optimistic or pessimistic view? The choice is yours.