We are all aware that there are not many certainties in life. We all, however, know one thing: we will one day die. Death is probably not something that we think about often when we are young, thinking that we have all the time in the world, that it will come at a far off time.
Here is the truth: Everyone is going to die, and we don’t know when it’s going to happen.
I am not saying this from a morbid perspective that you should live in fear and expect death around every corner. I want to wake you up. By being aware of your own mortality, you can start considering what is important to you in life. And that is a really good thing.
Knowing that your mortal life is limited, are you happy with how you’re spending it?
Not everyone is looking to do a job that lights them on fire, that they absolutely love and fulfils their purpose here on earth. Some are happy with a job they like that pays well, their friends, family, partner, hobbies and quality of life. It’s so individual and so personal, but it’s worth considering what truly makes you happy.
Most people are living a default future, which is a great thing if it makes you happy. But know that if you are not happy, you have the power to create a different one. And don’t assume that you will be able to do that in 10, 20, 30 years time.
Planning for the distant ‘some day’ future
Death of a loved one or someone who dies young usually makes most of us stop and pause.
A friend of mine on the ‘About’ page of his website told me the story of how his mother (an accountant) spent her whole life disliking going to work, but sensibly planned and saved furiously for retirement, when she would finally get to do all of the things that would make her feel alive. Travel, being with loved ones etc…
She never got there. She died at the age of 57 of cancer.
All of her plans for the future, down the road, never came to fruition.
If you had…
If you had one day left to live, what would you do with today? How you would show up? Who would you speak to? What would you say?
If you had one week left to live, how would you spend your time? What would you do? What would you not do? How would you be?
If you had one year left; how would you spend it? What would you stop doing? Who would you spend your time with? Would you still be doing the work you’re doing right now? Would you be doing something different?
OK – we obviously can’t live on the premise that we only have a short time left. We have to think long-term as well, but asking these questions is a good guide to determine what activities, what work and which people make us feel alive.
Our Top 5 Deathbed Regrets
Palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware, spent years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their life.
Patients knowing that they were going to die suddenly had a huge clarity of vision. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”
The regrets were:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
”This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
You’ll note among these common regrets, there is no ‘I wish I had gotten further in my career’, ‘I wish I had earned more money’.
In the end, it all comes down to being true to yourself and to love and connection.