A gift from our elders: Turning their shared regrets into our opportunities

In a society that worships youth and images of youthfulness, all too often we overlook precious opportunities to learn from those who have been around the block before us. As a counter to this mindset, palliative care provider Bronnie Ware asked people nearing the end of their life journeys to share what regrets they have carried into their later years.

Here are their top five regrets, as drawn from her conversations:

1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” (number one lament)

2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” (men especially)

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.” (“surprisingly common” regret)

To expound on what she learned, Ware has a new book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing (2011), available in both paperback and a very inexpensive Kindle edition.

A gift for the New Year

Ware’s full blog article is absolutely worth your click-and-read, and you may be motivated to get her book as well.

Especially as we approach or pass certain age milestones, or as we bemoan the passage of time often marked by a new year, we may be reluctant to heed the advice of those who are a decade (or two or three) older, as if paying attention suddenly accelerates our own aging. In reality, however, this is priceless wisdom, offered to many of us at points in our lives when we have the freedom to make changes and choices.

Some of these points may relate to career paths taken or not taken. Others may pertain to too much attention given to work in our lives. And a few remind us of the important people in our lives.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but stuff like this provides welcomed food for thought as we turn the calendar.

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Related post

The lessons of nostalgia

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Hat tip to Ann Appa via Facebook for Ware article.

5 responses

  1. I was surprised to discover that I’ve made a lot more progress on all of those than I would have guessed! Maybe I’m not doing so badly, after all. (I’m a big, big fan of addressing #1, but hey, I always was the strange one.)

    • Lisa, yeah, I’ve done pretty well on #1, but need to work on the rest!

      I think #1 is the biggest cause of mid-life crisis — and, especially for high-achievers pushed in directions they don’t want to go, premature mid-life crisis.

  2. Dear David, I loved reading this reminder to learn from our elders!
    Carmen Hetaraka, a Māori Oral Historian from New Zealand, taught me recently that “we have a responsibility to our elders” to share their wisdom others! This insight has become a key motivation for me. Thanks so much for your posting!!

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