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A popular article by The Guardian, Top Five Regrets of The Dying, has gained a lot of attention and circulation since its publication. The article lays out the most common regrets heard by a palliative care nurse in the final days of her patients’ lives. Among them are regrets about not living a life true to oneself, working too much, not expressing feelings, not staying in touch with friends, and not letting oneself be happy. So how can you avoid these major pitfalls in life and live a more meaningful existence?
The Art of Finding Purpose In Your Life
Stay True To Yourself
This was the most common regret overall. So many people get caught up in living how their friends, family, and society expect them to live rather than doing and being what they truly want. It’s important to remember that many people project their feelings of failure and inadequacy onto others. A bitter or unhappy person doesn’t want to see you succeed- or perhaps they do but only if you succeed exactly as they want you to. Society wants you to be married by a certain age, have perfect children, a house, and a financially impressive career.
But what do you want? Maybe marriage is something that isn’t right for you or isn’t right for you right now. Maybe you don’t want kids or plan to adopt. Maybe a financially impressive career isn’t what you view as success. And all of that is okay. It’s more than okay. Follow your heart and find your bliss. Do what you were put on this earth to do and burn that rule book you’ve been handed while you’re at it.
Don’t Let Work Define You
We all have to work because we all have bills to pay. But in the end one of the last things you will be wishing for is that you had spent more time at work and less time with people you love or doing what you love. It’s admirable to take pride in your work and to work hard. It’s equally admirable to spend your weekends hanging out with your kids on the living room floor or spending the day at the park.
It’s also impressive to spend your free time doing what you love. Whether that’s volunteering at a shelter or trying out something more involved like voluntourism, writing music, or simply watching movies that make you happy… the key word here is happy. Return to school if learning or going for a new career lights your fire. It’s never too late to get a degree or make a career change. Practice good self-care and spend time focusing on things other than work. In the end you and those around you will benefit (and so will your career).
Tell People How You Feel
This is part of staying true to yourself. It’s not always easy to express how we feel, to be vulnerable or face possible rejection. As we get older sometimes it becomes even more difficult as the life experiences pile up. What truly matters, regardless of the outcome, is that we let people know how we feel about them.
There’s a lot of bells you can’t unring and never letting those close to you know you love them rings the loudest and the longest. Express how you feel in whatever way makes you most comfortable. Write a letter or buy a card. Just get it out there before it’s too late and at the end of your life you can look back and know you never left anyone in the dark. That’s peace in its most beautiful form and you can obtain it.
Stay In Touch With Loved Ones
It’s easy in this world of detachment and technology to lose contact with friends and family. We are so busy working and rushing around that we forget to stop for a moment and reach out to those that care about us. Instead of reaching for email or text messages, take it a step further. Call someone and have a real conversation. It’s amazing how the power of hearing someone’s voice can impact your soul.
Write a letter instead of an email and give the person on the receiving end something other than bills in their mailbox. Buy a book of stamps and keep nice stationary on hand or simply a stack of notebook paper. Show them that you took the time to think of them and let them know they are special. Schedule time with people no matter how busy you are with work and day to day activities. Social networking is great but it can’t replace physically being in the same room with someone. That is where memories and strong bonds are forged.
Allow Yourself To Be Happy
This seems simple enough but it rarely is. Happiness is that elusive slippery balloon we all try and grasp before it floats away. Luckily, some of the best ways to improve your grip are mentioned in this article and are completely within your control. Staying true to yourself, doing what you love, expressing how you feel, and staying surrounded by those that you love are all powerful ways to combat unhappiness.
There is no guarantee that you will be happy all of the time but you can be happy most of the time and that’s a life well lived. Remembering during the dark times that happiness will once again return will help keep you from sliding down further or permanently into the misery abyss. The balloon exists and if you held it once you will hold it again. Keep remaining true to yourself and finding time for who and what you love until your grip is so firm you never lose sight of that balloon again.
Regrets are a very real part of life. Fortunately, so is having a life of meaning and happiness. It’s never too late to start creating the life you’ve always wanted. Remember those palliative care patients and their regrets and vow to yourself to reduce your chances of sharing them. You deserve a beautiful life. Now go out there and create it.