As we race towards the end of another year, I wanted to share with you, something I have been reading this week.
Now it’s not a very uplifting conversation and for some, may even feel a little uncomfortable.
But please understand, I choose to share with you not because I want you to feel morose or depressed – but rather as a compelling insight – offering information that might inspire you to take responsibility for your life and make the changes NOW that you know really must be made.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse.
For many years she worked in palliative care. Her patients were those who had gone home to die. She was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives and shared some incredibly special times with them in their final weeks.
“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality” she says.
“I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected – denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them”.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.
Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few appreciate, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
This came from every male patient that she nursed. They missed their children’s youth and the companionship of their partners. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men the Bronnie nursed, deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to live differently, and to live in a way where you do not need the income that you think you do.
And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end, it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often, they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end.
That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits.
The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have fun and silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
xxx Love and courage xxx
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