On Regrets

regretsDo you have regrets? I know I do.

Bonnie Ware was a palliative nurse in Australia and spent time with many people in the last three to twelve months of their lives. What she found were that her patients had five common regrets and I wanted to share them with you.

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

I’ve been very fortunate that my family never pressurized me to live a certain kind of life, do a certain kind of work or generally conform. At school I remember being told by teachers that I should be a banker or economist because those are ‘good’ jobs. However I would have been a terrible banker or economist because that’s not who I am. I’m much more of an artist, entrepreneur, consultant, writer or politician type. For outsiders my life may look directionless and without purpose as I’ve lived around the world and worked in many roles but in fact I’m quite consistent in that my life choices are in line with my values of continual learning and inspiring others. How do you want to live your life?

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

As the years have gone on I’m learning to let go of my Scottish protestant work ethic. One part of this stems from losing my brother early in life and feeling that I had to achieve for two. Another part is because I usually love what I do and don’t feel it constitutes work much of the time. A colleague told me yesterday that I have the ability to outwork anyone else in the company and at first I took that as a compliment. However more recently I’ve decided to achieve more balance. When I’m working I’ll be giving it 100% but I also need to take time for family, friends and myself.

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

For many Scots like myself expressing our feelings is a challenge. Americans seem to have no such qualms and it’s actually one of their most endearing qualities. Californian’s in particular are very much into ‘sharing’ their feelings (sometimes whether you want to hear them or not). Perhaps there is also a generational nature to this as the gen x’s, gen y’s and millennials thankfully seem much more willing to express their feelings than their parents and grandparents. This is a good thing.

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

Facebook and Skype makes this a lot easier now but I won’t argue that it’s difficult to find quality time with friends. One of the most enjoyable facets of my time living in Italy is how often we would get together with friends to break bread and spend many hours together just eating and talking. While social media allows us to communicate it doesn’t really allow deep connection. For this nothing can beat just ensuring that every week we spend time with friends over coffee (or preferably a long meal) to reconnect.

5. I wish I had let myself be happier. 

I remember being told by a former drug addict that every time you get high you need to take just a little bit more next time to get the same effect. The result is the constant chasing of the drug or quantity of it that will make you happier. We can see the same thing within work where people tell themselves that if only that had this salary or that job title then they would be happy. It’s a fallacy.  Happiness comes from inside and we have to give ourselves permission to be happy. Even now I find myself reaching and achieving a goal and then wondering why I’m not happier when I get there. I think the key here is gratitude. Take a little time each day to be grateful for what you already have instead of postponing happiness until you reach your next goal.  We should allow ourselves to be happier.

“Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.
I did, what I had to do, and saw it through, without exemption.
I planned, each charted course, each careful step, along the byway,
and more, much more than this,
I did it my way”

Frank Sinatra – My Way

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