“Live true to your heart’s own song” ~ is how author Bronnie Ware’s website greets us. Happiness is the evidence of life – of being alive. Imagine, if one knew that being alive is not an option anymore, and that they only had a few more days to live, what would one do?
Bronnie Ware penned down bestselling book ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing’, based on the experiences she had while caring for people about to die, as their palliative nurse.
Bronnie was with them during the last 3 to 12 weeks of their lives, and was an integral part of their journey through turbulently changing emotions, fear, anger, regrets, denial, acceptance and finally, peace. Having been with them in the last leg of their journey, Bronnie underwent a transformation in her life as well, through the regrets of these dying individuals, whose final days, she became a vital part of.
Have you ever given it a thought?
What would you do if you knew you were going to die?
Would you make a bucket list and set around to checking items off it?
Or would you make amends in life?
Would you seek people you left behind long ago to move on to greener pastures?
Would you find that one true love you gave away because you were egoistic and apologize?
What would you do?
Use up all your resources?
Give them away to charity?
Seek your relatives and ensure a secure life for them?
Beckon all your old and new friends to join a reunion?
Travel till you breathe your last?
Or retreat within the confines of home and family?
What would you do?
“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because dawn has come.” – Rabindranath Tagore
Here’s what Bronnie Ware discovered from these kind souls who taught her what living truly means, as they prepared to die:
The top most regret
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me:
How many times do we face a situation in which we stifle our own thoughts, wishes and desires in order to appease those around us?
When a 15 year old who dreams of becoming a journalist takes admission in Medicine because he is expected to become a doctor like mom and dad;
When the young lady squashes her love to marry the man of her parents’ choice, having no clue what he is and not knowing how he will treat her all her life;
When you kept postponing that small vacation to Italy because you had to earn financial security so your family would be rich, and today, are ailed by rheumatoid arthritis and can’t go anywhere without cringing in pain;
When you cried in disbelief but did as your boss said, even though lying and manipulating real facts and numbers was against your principles;
— You know you are living the life others expect of you, and not one true to yourself. This video will inspire you to live a life true to yourself :
Top 2nd regret
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard:
One fine day, you wake up and realize your son just became a dad. You have a grandson!! Taking your grandson in your arms, you try to remember what your own son looked like 30 years ago – and you realize you had no clue. Where had those years gone? Your wife looks much older than the last time you looked at her properly.
Many patients, in fact, all the men nursed by Bronnie Ware expressed the regret that they had paid a huge price for working hard – the joys of the moment.
If you think there is no time, thing again. Life is always an eternity in a moment. You choose what you do in that eternity. If you do not allot some eternities for your family, and for the things you really want to do, then all your waking moments will be a whirlpool of papers, presentations, costing, budgets, and invoices.
You choose your moments. Balance them. Fill them up with life.
Top 3rd regret
I wish I had had the courage to express my feelings:
Did you let your love go because you were afraid to express your love to him/her?
Do you regret that last fight with your father, just before he passed away, and wished you had told him how much you loved and respected him, just one more time?
Are you carrying resentment because you swallowed your pride and hurt when your best friend hit on your girl and stole her away?
Do you push love away because you are afraid of being hurt?
If your heart is a burial ground of all these unexpressed feelings, go express them today!! Life gives no second chances. Live it with gusto and honesty. To have loved and lost is better than not having loved at all. If you think your best friend is ‘using’ you, go tell them you are done being used. If you always knew photography was the career for you, go tell your boss you are quitting.
Whatever you do, express what you feel. Be true to the ones around you. Be true to the image that stares back at you in the mirror.
Top 4th regret
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends:
Reunions, friendly get-togethers, night-out with pals and the likes are bygone days, when there were no smart phones and Internet to keep you so overly connected that a hangout replaces a physical get-together. Certainly not when you are dying.
We all are guilty of having ditched plans with friends on pretext of work so many times in life. But we pride on our friendship, because we are friends forever. Virtual or ‘psychic’ friendships sound great but the physical presence of a friend is very important to feel fulfilled in life.
Bronnie found from several of her wards that they missed their friends during the last days. Understandably so. The friendly banter, the name calling, the standing up for each other – Don’t we all miss it?
The ‘I’ll pay for you, don’t worry’ friend, the ‘rescue me from this mess’ friend, the ‘walk in uninvited and feel at home’ friend, the ‘always there’ friend, the ‘3.00 AM’ friend who you can call at any unearthly hour and he will talk to you unflinchingly, the ‘cricket’ gang… I could go on and on.
Take the initiative to nurture your friendships. Let your friends know they are valued. Show them you care before it’s too late.
Top 5th regret
I wish I had let myself be happier:
One of the basic principles of the Law of Attraction states that the more we think about something, positive or negative, the more of it we attract. Life teaches us so much during the journey, but we tend to learn erratic lessons from it. For example, if a girl breaks your heart, you stop believing in love; if a grocery store owner cheated you once, you suspect all grocery store owners to be cheats – so on and so forth.
We let life limp by on the sharp edges of our prejudices and forget to be happy about the blessings we already have. Many of us learn to live within our tall walls of hatred, apprehensions and cynicism, not knowing that all it takes to change your world upside down is just a very small smile. That little curve on your face which brightens up not only your life but also that of those around you.
Why do we distance ourselves from happiness? Why are we afraid of joy?
We erect milestones for happiness –
When I clear my boards and get a degree, I will be the happiest!
When I get a job in an MNC, I will be the happiest!
When I buy a car, I will be the ‘most’ happiest person!
When I get both daughters married, I will be happy, and so on.
In doing so, we postpone happiness and get into the stand-by mode. This stand-by mode is very dangerous, because it influences all your decisions. It is in this mode that you push away all your priorities towards a “seemingly” distant goal, and link everything, including your happiness, to its realization.
Imagine if this goal doesn’t happen?
Suppose you have married your daughter and should now be technically ‘happy’ as your goal is realized, but you come to know that she is in a bad marriage, is your happiness postponed now to another goal – when they resolve their differences and live happily ever after?
That is the essence of happiness. You cannot chase it. You have to own it within you, irrespective of the outside circumstances. You have to free it like a kite with just a thin string in your hands, in order to let it fly.
Now that we are given a chance to think and ponder about what it is that we can do to live a life that is meaningful and not marred by materialistic possessions, let us see how we can go about achieving this:
- Write down a personal goal list and a professional goal list. Then accept the fact that you are NOT going to achieve everything. Strike the right balance and do what will truly fulfill you.
- Be a leader in your daily life. Do what you believe in, and as you want to.
- Be true to yourself. You are answerable only to yourself and no one else.
- Relationships and friendship matter. Give them time and energy. Nurture them.
- Never worry about the society. Your detractors are there because you give them entity. Ignore them and move forward on your chosen path with self belief.
- Say as you feel. Be transparent. It might not get you many friends, but it will surely get you true friends.
Make a choice to be happy. Today. Now. This very moment.
The following video will inspire you to Seize the Moment: