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Posted by on December 11, 2011

Everyday I make little choices. Some days they’re a bit more difficult. Periodically, they become major choices that have a greater impact on our lives with the risks and consequences being more severe. In fact, I’m always ranting to my children that as we grow older the most difficult aspect of our lives are the decisions and choices we have to make. As life gets more complicated, our choices become more gut-wrenching. And we make our choices, but then our choices as well, makes us. And we always look back, wondering what if. Should I have done this, should I have done that. And I’m reminded of the quote I learned years ago that regrets are better earned for the things that we did than for those that we never attempted to do. This thought process always causes introspection on my part. And as learned as I have become over the years, the wisdom borne of experience, I still find choices being as difficult as ever. And the wonder causes concern on how I have lived my life. There are still a few days that I contemplate our choice to become fulltime RVers, vaccillating to and fro and always coming to the same conclusion. Which brings me to an article penned some time ago by Bronnie Ware. Bronnie is an Austrailian writer and song composer, former nurse and caregiver who provides inspiration to countless numbers. For many years, she had worked in palliative care. Most of her patients were those who had gone home to die. She was with them for the last weeks of their lives.  People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. Never  underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. When Bronnie would question her patients about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surface over and over again. I would like to share with you their most common five:

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.  It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until you no longer have it.

 2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that she 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 deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.  By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

 3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settle 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.  We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

 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.  It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

 5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many do 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.

I have had my own regrets and I have second thoughts too numerous to count. But in the end, without the aforementioned knowledge, so far I’m not doing to poorly on my choices.  Life IS a choice. And it is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly, but choose happiness.

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