There would be nothing worse than getting to the end of your life and saying, I wish I had lived differently. It seems to me to be a tragic statement, and so I want to look at this topic: How to live life without regrets.
John Ortberg, the minister, writer and preacher from the US, has said wisely I think, “We need to ask ourselves what we are doing (or not doing) with our lives now, that could lead to deep regret”. In other words, it is very important we spend some time evaluating our lives before it’s too late. I think we all want to live our lives without regret. I’m sure when we get to old age, or at the end of our life, it’d be great to be able to say, I spent my life wisely doing the things that were important.
But how often do we stop and think about it?
I feel that the big need we have is to recognise there is no rewind button in life. We can’t go back and have a second go. We must get it right the first time. if only I could bring back time—I would never do or say that again. Have you ever said that? I know I have. What is it that shapes our life every day? It was Jim Rohn who said: “If you don’t make a plan for your life, you’ll be living someone else’s life—and chances are that person doesn’t have much planned for you”.
Regrets of Dying People
Palliative care nurses tend to people in their last stage of life and they are in the unique position of being able to talk with patients who may be confronting what life has meant to them. One of these nurses, Bronnie Ware, wrote a blog, then a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, about her experiences. She found that people did indeed have regrets before they died and these had little to do with their bucket lists. Ware discovered the dying have five common regrets:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Many of us care too much about what others think and let society’s expectations influence us, when we have the freedom to make our life what we want it to be. If you were truly yourself, what would you be like? What would your heart be telling you to do? What would bring meaning to your life? Try making a list of small changes you could make that would head you in the direction of more.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. So many people work themselves to exhaustion, yet Ware found that many of the dying wished they hadn’t done so. They were from a generation where men were the breadwinners.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people have regretted never speaking up because they ‘want to keep the peace’ and they ‘don’t want to make waves’. Others don’t do so because they are afraid of the feelings it might unlock in them. But this is a damaging way to live. Ware found many of the dying regretted not having spoken up in life. They feared others’ reactions and this kept them mute. Ultimately, though, they would much rather have said something.
- I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends. A busy lifestyle can see friendships drop by the wayside, but Ware discovered that when people are dying they really begin to appreciate the relationships they had. However, they are too ill to do anything about it by then. So make time to keep in touch with people. You won’t regret it!
- I wish I had let myself be happier. The dying told Ware they wished they had let themselves be happier in life. Instead, they had limited themselves by trying to keep up appearances and by ensuring life was comfortable and controlled. But our comfort zone is not necessarily an enjoyable place. We need to step out every so often and take a risk.
Jesus said, “More than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants”. (Matthew 6:33 – CEV). When God is first in our lives, we can face and experience each day with a sense of purpose and not constantly live with regrets.
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