In 2009 an Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware wrote an article on “Regrets of the Dying”, based on her years as a palliative nurse. Her courage in having deep conversations about life and death provided her with the raw insights for her article, that went viral. She later turned that piece into a best-selling memoir. Here are the top five insights gathered from those she provided end of life care for:
1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
We can say that our priority is our children, or our health — but really, we can only measure focus on priorities by how much time and energy we spend nurturing them.
2. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
Holding on to feelings and avoiding expressing resentments creates anxiety and stress. Having courage to express these things leads us out of disempowerment and mediocrity.
3. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
As the decades-long Harvard Grant Study on Happiness has shown, it’s the relationships in our lives that contribute most to our happiness, both short term and long term. As Sam Roberts shares in his song, ‘Long Road’…stay true to your friends ‘cause they’ll save you in the end.
4. I wish that I had let myself be happier
An interesting choice of words there, right? “Let” myself be happier. I.e. allowing happiness. We don’t “achieve” happiness by completing goals, or purchasing things…we allow it daily with our mindset that we are “enough”, by framing things positively, by focusing on the relationships in our lives that empower us.
5. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
According to Ms. Ware, this was the most common regret of all. Imagine you’re on your deathbed — if you were to look back from this point now, what regrets would you have? Is it clear to you what dreams and goals are so important, that you would regret not attempting them? Do you feel a bit more urgency now? Forget trying to plan the whole journey — just start with the first step, the rest will follow.
Given that this time of year is about gratitude, reflection, and setting new goals, consider reading this column again before the end of the week. Then write down goals for 2018 that actually resonate with you deeply — not the “I shoulds”. Goals that resonate enough that you write them down and carry them with you and read them every morning and night. And act on them daily, if not weekly. Just pick one or two. One or two that are so important that they make you feel anxiously excited when you think about them. Stir some emotion. Then you can kick regret to the curb. Happy holidays.