Top Five Regrets of the Dying

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Last week I came across an article that listed the top five regrets of the dying, recorded by a nurse called Bronnie Ware. Each one of them I feel I’ve been working on since practicing mindfulness. Here’s how I think it relates:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
Not fulfilling their dreams was the most common regret of all.
Most people have at least one area of their life in which they’re not being true to themselves, for fear of how other people might react.

Your thoughts will do a great job of rationalising why you should maintain the status quo, but you know a situation isn’t right because you can feel the tension it creates in your body. Listen to that.

The other side of it is to give yourself space to dream. Over the last few months I’ve started drawing pictures of the things that I really want in my life: ideal relationships, clients or income. It’s helped me and the people I’ve done it with to be clear about what we want, and indeed to get it.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
Every male patient said this. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.
In our culture where people compete to stay in the office the latest and reply to work emails at midnight and at weekends, this message needs to be heard. Mindfulness has a lot to with learning to take pauses, to find balance between work, rest and play, and to listen to your body when it’s telling you it’s tired. It’s also about reflecting on what matters to you most in life, which for most people is their relationships, not their job.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep the peace with others.
I can totally relate to this. While I was on a mindfulness course I realised that for a long time I’d been feeling tense in my throat and jaw, and made the connection between that and not saying how I felt.
The more I’ve overcome the fear of other people’s reactions, and said what I was afraid to say, the more it’s loosened up and the better I feel.

4. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends
On one level we’ve never been more connected to our friends, through social media, but many of us don’t spend as much quality time with them as we’d like. This can often be due to allowing work or general busyness to get in the way.
Mindfulness teaches us to slow down and make time for people.

5. I wish I’d let myself be happier
People often say they think self-care is self-indulgent – selfish even. When I ask people to wish for themselves to be happy during a meditation, they often struggle with it.
Happiness is a choice. You can choose to do the things you know make you happy, or you can deny yourself them out of some kind of guilt. The fact is that they best way to make others happy, is for you to be happy.

Finally, mindfulness is all about the present moment, so the time to start living the life you really want to live, is NOW!

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