From time to time we may think about our lives and the goals we want to achieve. Think about your life; the people you are surrounded with, your job, your house and the way you spend your free time. Do you follow your heart when it comes to these aspects of your life? Or is fitting into the expectations of others more important to you? Bronnie Ware wrote a book about the regrets that patients had when they were terminally ill and waiting to die. A lot of her work involved providing counseling from the physical and mental stresses that come naturally when a patient comes face to face with their last days. She asked them what their biggest regrets where about their lives. The most common regrets she observed:
1. I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me
Fitting into the expectations of others (family, friends and society) are the reason why people failed to pursue their dreams. The biggest lesson from this regret is: if you know what you love to do in life, do it! Don’t wait for a ‘better moment’ in the future. When you notice you’re still afraid of what others might think of your choices, remember that their opinions don’t matter in your dying days.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard
Especially the male patients had this regret. The male patients were often the breadwinners and their lives were taken over by pursuing a career. They regretted that they allowed their work to take over their private lives. This caused them to spend less time with their family and friends. When they look back at their lives they would have simplified their lifestyle and would have created more space for happiness. They could also have had more time to spend with their loved ones.
3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings and speak my mind more often
It’s ironic that these patients believed they suppressed their true feelings and didn’t speak their mind when they should have, because they wanted to keep peace with others. A lot of them avoided confrontations and difficult conversations which eventually affected their health. By suppressing their feelings (especially anger) they built up a lot of bitterness and resentment. This stood in the way of fulfilling their true potential. Live boldly and remember, when confrontation is kind, honest and constructive, it helps to deepen our relationships and deepen our mutual respect to one and other.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends and giving the time and effort they deserved
Patients regretted they didn’t invest in (old) friendships because of the busy world we live in. It appears when death is looming, people realise friendships hold more value than all their wealth and achievements. Are their friends you’ve lost touch with because of your busy life? Don’t hesitate and call them before it’s too late! Tell them why you value them and make more effort to give them the right attention.
5. I wish I had let myself be happier
Many patients that were interviewed didn’t realise until the end of their lives that being happy is a choice. They wished they had known that chasing wealth, social acceptance and big careers aren’t going to help you achieve happiness. In their deathbeds they realised that looking back they could have chosen to be me more relaxed and appreciate the good things in life they already had. To be thankful for you life, rich or poor. It’s about the connections you have with your loved ones and the time you spend with them. Remember, happiness is a choice. How do you choose to spend your time?
Is it possible to live without regret?
That’s probably not possible because no human life is perfect. But the key is to live a life with as few regrets as possible. Choose wisely how you want to spend your time: do you want to chase a bigger career to strive for more wealth? Or is spending time with your loved ones more important to you? Whatever you decide: live boldly!
Download the app and try to fill a daily registration about your day. Are you happy with the choices you made that day?