Monday, June 30, 2014

Live Without Regret: Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

How would you choose to live today - if you knew you only had 6 months to live?

Pretty powerful question, isn't it?  However, despite it perhaps being a somewhat morbid thought, we are all dying.  We likely have significantly longer than 6 months, but our time here is limited and, therefore, so too are the experiences that we can choose to fill our time with.

Are you filling your time with experiences that are meaningful and fulfilling?  Will you be in a position to look back on your life with few, if any, regrets?
I went skydiving
I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'
And he said, Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'                             
 (Tim McGraw lyrics - Live Like You Were Dying)

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent a number of years working in palliative care with patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.  She began a blog recording her patients thoughts as they reflected back on their lives and ultimately wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.  She found that there were strong and consistent themes that surfaced repeatedly.

1.  I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

All too often we get caught up in worrying about what others might say or think that we hold ourselves back from doing what we dream of.  We don't dance in the rain, we don't sing with the windows open, we don't laugh out loud.  We live a life of unfulfilled dreams.

What would you do if you weren't worried what others would say?

2.  I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

Almost every man Bronnie nursed expressed this regret, of having spent so much of their lives caught up in a race not of their making.  Only you can determine whether your work is fulfilling all of your dreams or not, but it is worth taking the time to assess it's true value to you.

What is working hard giving to you and what is the cost?  Is it worth it?

3.  I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

We often suppress our feelings in order to maintain peace in our relationships and sometimes as a means of avoiding getting hurt.  However, many of us experience stress and illness because of unexpressed and unresolved feelings and, sometimes, we miss out on positive relationships and levels of intimacy because we withhold our feelings.

What feelings are you failing to give voice to that are serving to limit the life you live and the 'you' that you could become?

4.  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

This is a big one for many people in today's world of never-changing 'busyness'.  We get so caught in the 'doing' of activities that we fail to give our friendships the time and effort they deserve and need to truly flourish.

What friendships have you let slide and what can you do now to reconnect and rekindle them?

5.  I wish that I had let myself be happier.

It is surprising how many feel that happiness is something that happens to them rather than recognising that happiness is a choice.  Old habits and patterns may leave us stuck in our comfort zone rather than pursuing new activities, people and experiences that would open us to the happiness we seek.  Happiness, it seems, is a matter of perspective, of seeing something as an opportunity rather than as a setback.

What steps could you take to reframe the way you are viewing negative or limiting circumstances to free you to feeling happier about your life and options?

Although the fear of dying is pretty universal, thinking about our death should serve not to limit or restrict us, but to motivate us to live our lives more proactively, purposefully and passionately.  Consider this...

What's your greatest regret in life so far... and what will you do NOW to change it?

And... for those of you that have not yet had the pleasure of listening to Tim McGraw's song - Live Like You Were Dying...  do yourself a favor and take a moment now, or you'll regret it!

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