I was doing some research for a client the other day, and I came across a great article entitled Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. It was written by a woman who worked with patients in palliative care. She spent the last few weeks of life with them, and in all cases, she found her patients had the following regrets:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
If people regularly have these regrets in their final days, why can’t we take their advice now while we’re living and do something about it?
Unfortunately, some can’t. They may read these words and sympathize. But they immediately go back to their “rush, rush” lifestyle in order to keep up with the Jonses.
But if you’re reading this, chances are you are in the other mindset. You’ve figured out that life is really too short, and it is time to make a change in order to live a happier, more well-balanced life.
What if you made five changes, all based on these five dying regrets?
1. I will choose a dream that is important to me and make it a reality.
Whether you’re 20-something or 70-something, you still have the opportunity to dream and do something about it. Sure, if you’re 70 and have always dreamed of becoming a ballerina, it might not be reality. But chances are you have a dream that is possible right now.
The thing with dreams is they always change, always morph, always exist. While we might not dream of being a firefighter in the same way we did when we were 10, it might change in a way that is completely doable. Maybe your dream of being a firefighter stemmed from wanting to help people. You can still do that in many ways. You can still do that – just figure out what’s the right direction today.
2. Work will no longer be my priority.
Work is important; its what pays the bills and gives you a certain lifestyle. But you don’t have to work harder to become more successful. Some of the most successful people on the planet work just a few hours a day.
Every stage of your life is important. If you miss watching your kids grow, that moment is gone forever. If you miss spending time traveling, or time with a hobby you really love, you can’t go back and do it all over again.
Work is important. But your life is equally important. Make sure you create the time to stop and smell the roses along the way.
3. I will speak my mind.
While honesty isn’t always the best policy, holding in your feelings can literally kill you.
Change is okay. Telling people your true feelings, even if it means questioning the relationships you are currently in, isn’t always a bad thing. And if it sets you free and allows you to move forward, imagine all that can change in your life from this point forward.
4. I will spend more time with my friends.
Remember that friend you lost touch with simply because you were too busy to schedule lunches? Where could that relationship have been today?
While in some ways social sites like Facebook will give us the outlet we need to stay in touch, it still takes work and effort. Choose the relationships you treasure – you want to maintain – and make the effort to meet on a regular basis. Ignore reciprocation. Just because they don’t contact you doesn’t mean they don’t want to spend time with you. It may mean that they haven’t thought about life balance in the same way you have. By calling them up and scheduling time for relationship building, you’re doing both you and your friend a favor.
5. I will be happy.
Happiness is a choice. It isn’t something you strive for or wait until you have something more. If you need a certain amount of money, or a certain relationship, or a certain “thing” in your life before you can be happy, you’re missing the point.
Happiness is a state of being. Its something you are, or you’re not. Happiness exists in the mind; something you choose to be right now.
Happiness takes practice. If you’ve never thought of yourself as happy, what does it mean to you? What can you do today to be happy?
Start small. Write down three things that made you happy today. It doesn’t have to be big – “a smile from my daughter” or “sharing an ice cream sundae with my husband”. The more you focus on it, the more you find it. And the happier you will be with all aspects of your life.