How overwhelming is your life right now?
I’m guessing you’re in the washing machine with the rest of us.
When I’m spinning in the heavy-duty cycle I find myself reaching out to touchstones that have helped ground and center myself again and again. Like what? Like ways to be happy, ways to calm my mind, and, yes, the five greatest regrets of the dying.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian palliative nurse who spent years taking care of the dying in the last three months of their lives. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”
She eventually put together the five most common regrets from people moments away from their last breath and posted it on her blog. It went viral, and the story was picked up by The Guardian and The Daily Mail, among others.
So what were the greatest regrets she heard from patient after patient? Didn’t make enough money? Didn’t work enough hours? Not enough vacations? Not enough homes? No. Not even close. The 5 Greatest Regrets of the Dying are:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not what others expected
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
I wish that I had let myself be happier
Every time I read this list I am stunned into silence for a minute. I think how many of these regrets I would have if I died today. I look at how I’m spending my time today, this week, this month and see if there are things I can adjust to make sure I’m focusing on the right things. There always are so the list serves as inspiration.
I also always feel like this entire list relates to authenticity. That’s ultimately how you avoid these regrets. It’s all about being you and being okay with it. Being honest with yourself and honest with others. I would argue if you’re being yourself, if you’re being authentic, then:
You do live a life true to yourself
You do overvalue your time and find a job that fits your life
You do recognize and express your feelings
You do keep in touch with your friends
You do let yourself be happier
Being you removes regrets from your life.
Authenticity removes regrets from your life.
So use these five greatest regrets of the dying to briefly escape your washing machine mind. Forget about what your cell phone is announcing, forget about your overwhelming to-do list, and take a minute to stop and listen to the crowdsourced sum of thousands of people on the edge of existence shouting desperately back to you with what’s really important.