“The trouble is, you think you have time.” – Buddha
It can be powerful to look at how others would have lived their lives differently. We have time until our very last breath to make our lives what we want them to be, but we can’t wait. It’s all too easy to wait a lifetime.
The 5 Regrets of the Dying was written by Bronnie Ware, a woman, who spent years as a long term care provider for the terminally ill.
She identified patterns among the main life regrets of her patients. I found these to give quite a punch. They are life lessons we can all use now to better our lives.
Regret # 1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected from me.”
We worry a lot about what others think.
Bronnie cared for a woman that stayed with the same controlling man for her entire life to please her family and the opinions of others. When he died, she found out she was sick shortly after. She was never able to truly live.
It was the most common regret of her patients, and of all the life lessons we can all relate to this in some way. We feel we should have a certain job, or be a certain wife or mother. We give into peer pressure. At some point we have to let it go of what others think and be true to ourselves.
Regret #2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
She tells the story of a husband and wife that dreamed of traveling together after retirement. The man continually put off his retirement for “one more year,” until they eventually found out that she was ill. She died before they could live out their dream, and he regretted his decision to keep working until his dying day.
Another woman regretted that she spent so many years in a job that wasn’t part of her life’s purpose.
The central theme for this chapter was making sure we spend enough time with people we love and in a job that fulfills us. At the end of our lives, the hours of work toiling for money and status matter much less than we think.
Regret #3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
Millions of people do not live to old age.
Some die unexpectedly.
There was a heartbreaking story of a mom in her 40s leaving behind a nine year old daughter. We just never know when it is our time, so it’s important to tell the people in our lives that we love them often. Give Hugs. And be open and honest in relationships.
Regret #4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
Bronnie found that many of her patients were quite lonely. While families were present, they were often out of town or running their own lives as well.
Many people regretted not having made the effort to make like minded friends or stay in touch with their friends.
In today’s society, we have many friendly acquaintances (thanks social media!), but fewer true friends that will be there for us when we really need it. We get busy with life and time slips by, but it’s important to not let those relationships slip with it.
Regret #5. “I wish I had let myself be happier.”
Some patients felt they weren’t deserving of happiness, while others regretted worrying too much over trivial things and being overly focused on results throughout their lives.
Happiness is RIGHT NOW. It’s not whether we get a thinner body or make more money. It’s the little moments in our day.
As Bronnie said, “we have the freedom to choose what we focus on.”
We can train our minds to think positively and appreciate that radiant sunshine or gorgeous flower. We choose where to put our energy, and it makes a critical difference to our lives in the long run.
Something To Think About
Like most hard things, the advice is straightforward but the practice can sometimes be difficult.
At the end, what Bronnie found was that no one cared about the stuff they owned or how big their house was.
They cared about what they did, how happy they let themselves be, and the positive influence they had on others around them.
The 5 life lessons have given me plenty to ponder! I’ve spent time this past week touching base with friends, saying more “I love yous” and trying to find happiness in the process (not just the results). These lessons will stay with me for quite some time.
Spend time with family and friends this weekend, and let yourself be happy!
For more about Bronnie Ware and her teachings check out her website HERE.
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