Regrets of the dying

Getting organized isn’t just about being efficient with your time, following up on details, and doing a great job. Although that’s all really good stuff, getting organized is also about finding an inner calm, an inner peace knowing that you’re doing work that is true to who you are and that shares your unique gifts with the world.

In The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath write about Bonnie Ware, a palliative care nurse who served patients in their final weeks of life. Here’s what Bonnie heard as her patients’ five most common regrets.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Bonnie adds that many of her patients, “did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits.”

So you’re alive. You have time. What can you do now to make sure you don’t have these kind of regrets on your deathbed?

How about spending time thinking about what you love to do more than anything – and then figuring out a way to make more time for that?
We’re easily shaped by our parents and grandparent’s wishes and views of us. And siblings, spouses, coworkers, and friends all influence us as do prior commitments. That’s great if all of that supports the you that only you know best. But where it doesn’t is when you’ve got to figure out for yourself what track you want to be on – and then get on that track.

How about being intentional about how you spend each day?
It’s easy to get sucked into projects and work that don’t match who you are. If you’re working on something that makes you yawn, stop, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, stretch your arms wide above you, and ask the Universe to send you a better idea for how to spend your time that will bring you energy rather than draining you of energy. Listen to the silence for answers. Then open your eyes, let out your breath, and see, really see, what’s in front of you.

How about practicing courage by being honest with yourself and saying what’s on your mind?
Don’t be unkind or judgmental with others or with yourself. But be honest. Be sincere. And don’t be afraid to let the real you out. What have you got hidden in there that we need to know about?

How about spending some time this week thinking about connection?
Who do you love spending time with that you haven’t seen in awhile? We all have an expiration date, and friendships need nurturing. Who is ready and waiting for you to call for a coffee date, a run in the park, or a simple visit?

How about breaking from your script and finding moments of elevation and inspiration instead?
We are creatures of habit; that’s how we survive in good part. But if your script isn’t working for you, write a new one.

We all die – you can’t get around it. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a big smile on your face as you depart, and to feel a sincere gladness that you gave your all while you were here. That you lived your life to the fullest. That you lived your life with focus and energy. That you’re leaving with no regrets?

Happiness is a choice. Chose happiness.

This is a big challenge. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I’ll leave you with a couple of shots of a friend-pack that gathers daily to work and hang out in Kettle Cove, Maine.

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I welcome your thoughts and suggestions for future posts!



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