Bronnie Ware spent years working at jobs that weren’t feeding her intrinsically. She decided, without any formal training or experience, to become employed in palliative care. This area of healthcare provides humanistic relief for those with the symptoms, pain, and stress of grave illness. The goal is to improve the quality of life for patient and family. These people had gone home to die.
This career move was a moving experience and tipping point in Bronnie’s life. She had many intimate conversations with the sick and dying and asked them to share what they’ve learned over the course of their lives. She wrote a blog that was read by millions called “Regrets of the Dying.”
After contemplative soul searching, Bronnie found a common thread through the words of her patients facing their own mortality. Based on feedback from raving blog fans, she wrote a memoir that eloquently describes her wondrous transformation during this chapter of her life.
Here are my thoughts on Bronnie’s five biggest regrets of the dying:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Bronnie says this turns out to be the biggest regret of all. For some reason, we go through life trying to be something that we’re not. From experience, I can say, showing up this way is so exhausting. There is an easier way. Take a trip deep inside the dark walls of your “who” to find what lights you up. Once you discover that flame, get closer, explore, and just be who you are and nobody else. The moment you become authentic, everything in your world will change.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
When I entered the business world, I didn’t regret working 14 hour days. As a young man, destined and determined to carve a career in the computer industry, I ate, slept, and inhaled everything about the profession. In retrospect, I focused on the wrong things. I’ll leave that for another post.
Today, as an executive and leadership coach, I’m having fun every day. I love serving others and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. Nothing. My only regret is not going with my intuition, as a junior in college, and diving into the people pool business sooner rather than later. Ties back to #1.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Earlier in life we tend to be more guarded. We don’t want to rock the boat or step on somebody’s toes. We measure every word, every expression, and wonder how we’ll be portrayed if we say what’s on our minds. It took me a long time to realize I’m cheating the world of my gifts if I don’t voice an opinion. This ties back to regret #1. I can see why #1 is #1.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
If you can say you have a couple of “true friends” you’re luckier than most. I stay in touch with friends and meaningful acquaintances on a regular basis. Over the last several years, I’ve made a conscious effort to reconnect with family. I’m lucky to say, I have great people in my sphere of influence. They’ve shaped me. They keep me grounded.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
So true. Growing up, for the most part, I thought I was pretty much, a happy go lucky camper. One day, about 15 years ago, a close friend commented with a laugh, “Steve, the stuff you’re supposed to be worried about, you’re not. You spend way too much time on things that are unimportant.” My friend Joe was right. I’m proud to say, I’ve done almost a 180 in this area of my life.
Last year, I was enjoying a wonderful lunch with Michaline, my Gen Y daughter. I was concerned she was expending too much wasted energy on the small stuff. “Honey, you’re always angry” I said. “Oh, I’m happy, I just can’t stand people” she replied. I couldn’t stop laughing! Happy and proud to say, I’m seeing subtle changes in Mikey and she’s headed in the right direction.
“Regrets, I’ve had a few” as Frank would say. How about you? Please comment below.