Learning from the dying to live a life you wonâ€™t regret
I was recently reflecting on an article I read on the top five regrets of the dying. The article summarized the findings of Bronnie Ware, a nurse who worked with the dying and captured their wise words in her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
What struck me most was the fact that these top five regrets are strikingly similar to the top challenges expressed by the midlife men that I work with in my coaching practice. The regrets of the dying that Ware captured are:
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’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
What would our lives be like at midlife if we allowed ourselves to follow our own internal compass, rather than the wishes and demands of others? Iâ€™m not talking about walking through life as some self-centered and selfish egotist. Iâ€™m talking about living life as someone who has let go of folding to the expectations of others. Especially when their needs for us to be a certain way are not in alignment with who we know we really are.
What would life be like if we could tackle our challenges around being our own person and living life wearing one hat, not changing hats at the whim of others or to meet the expectations of someone else?
It would be a life of freedom.
What would our lives be like if we were able to create an approach to life at midlife where we truly worked to live not lived to work? What if we knew our life mission, lived in alignment with our intrinsic values, and made a living doing what we loved? Iâ€™m not talking about some fairytale fantasy-sell where you work an hour a day and make millions. You might get there, but it takes commitment, willingness to change, and perseverance.
You have to do the internal work to clarify the difference between a life that would be NICE to have and one which is a MUST have. What would you have at the end of such a life? Not regrets. Youâ€™d have a life lived with purpose and balance, where work wasnâ€™t something you clocked into, but where you showed up and lived it because you loved it.
It would be life of mastery.
What would our lives be like if as men we were able to claim our emotions and own them rather than bottling them up? As men weâ€™ve been told to deny our feelings and so we stuff them down into the darkness of that denial. If we are able to connect with emotions, itâ€™s typically either as anger or disappointment, the few socially â€śacceptableâ€ť forms of masculine self-expression.
What if at midlife you could name all of your emotions, live into the depth of their expressive experience, and use the universe of information within them to inform your relationships and understanding of the world. Iâ€™m not talking about recklessly setting yourself adrift in a sea of emotion. Iâ€™m talking about truly owning your emotions, experiencing them, and interacting with them on your terms and from a place of choice. What would it be like?
It would be a life rich beyond compare.
What would our lives be like if as men in midlife we allowed ourselves real and honest connections, a band of brothers or a tribe of men we could truly call friends? Weâ€™re constantly fed misinformation about men needing to stand tall and alone, get through it on our own, pull on our boots and grin and bear it. As a result we often feel isolated and alone, which can feed mild to severe depression, a sense of malaise, alcohol or drug abuse, and serious midlife crises.
What if at midlife you claimed your right to have a tribe of men. What if you claimed your right to be seen by and validated by a band of brothers? What would it be like to prioritize time and capacity for having meaningful connection with men? To be yourself without fear of being judged or ridiculed for wherever you stand on the spectrum of masculinity? What would that be like?
It would be a life of finally coming home.
What would our lives be like if we could give ourselves the permission to be happier or more content? I argue that by achieving success with the first four regrets of the dying we will have achieved in avoiding most of the fifth regret. If you think about it: living courageously as ourselves; having a balanced relationship with work; expressing the breadth of our feelings instead of bottling them up; and allowing ourselves to be surrounded by friends â€¦ living a life on those terms would make you happier and more content with your life. What would success with these things be like?
It would make a life worth living.
Lifeâ€™s too short to wait until your death bed, wishing that you had lived it differently.
Lifeâ€™s too short to pass with regrets.
Lifeâ€™s too short.
Over the coming weeks I will be creating blogs and videos to take a deep dive into ways that we can course correct in midlife and tools to avoid living our last days with regrets.
I hope you join me.
Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the corner of Midlife and Thriving!