Sounds great, doesn’t it…living a life of no regrets. Who wouldn’t want that? If fact, it is what most people crave. Unfortunately, not that many people realize it until it is too late. Just Google deathbed regrets and you’ll get lots of search results on the subject. A book, written about the subject became a best seller. Bronnie Ware’s “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing”.
When I read the book, I was shocked at the top five regrets of the dying. They seemed so avoidable and that started me thinking about what it is that prevents people from actually living a life of no regrets. The question eventually led to my narrowing my coaching business so that I only work with clients that are committed to leaving it all on the field by the time they take their last breath.
If you want to know what’s required to live a life of no regrets, it’s easiest to just start with your Googled list of top regrets of the dying and do the opposite of those things. For this article, I will focus on the one at the top of the list.
According to Bronnie Ware, the #1 regret of the dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”. There’s an easy fix, isn’t there? Live a life that is true to yourself. Forget about what others expect of you. Be focused on your life and the legacy that you want to leave behind, not the legacy that others think you should leave behind.
If it sounds so easy, why is it the #1 regret? I think it’s because we are all socialized into an existence that separates us from our true nature and our life’s purpose and morphs us into a life that makes the rest of the world feel comfortable, especially those that benefit from your playing your part.
Let’s take marriage for example. I am always amazed by how many women boast that they are just a few years away from that golden 50th anniversary but admit that they haven’t loved their spouse for the last 20 years.
Maybe it’s an affair that they forgave but never forgot.
Maybe they got married for the wrong reasons.
Maybe they had a voice in their head whispering, “Run, this is not the man for you” even as they were walking down the aisle and they’ve spent the better part of their life trying to prove that voice wrong.
Maybe it’s their religion or their family or their friends or just societal norms that have had them justify them living without the love they deserve.
What if all the reasons someone tells themselves to stay in a loveless relationship are wrong. What if people aren’t meant to love the same person and be perfect for that person for the rest of their lives.
When I think about who was perfect for me at 25 years old, it wouldn’t be a man that was perfect for the woman I was at thirty-five or fifty-five.
What if a marriage is an amazing story that two people play out together with love and care?
What if they get to choose to recommit one year at a time for all the right reasons or simply choose to thank each other for the lessons learned and dissolve the union?
What if that was the accepted norm?
IF it was, I bet any couple that reached the 50-year mark would still be happy and in love and living a marriage without regrets. But the world has somehow made dissolving a marriage into a war, where attorneys get rich, children suffer trauma, and each spouse is consumed with making the other wrong so that they will be seen as the victim.
To avoid all of that, many simply live a life of silent loneliness or secret affairs while they stay in matrimonial prison til’ with death bed regrets do they part. That is just one example, but from my coaching business, I can tell you it’s a fairly popular one.
What if you sat down today and wrote out a list of rest-of-year resolutions, things that you want to do between now and the end of the year. You’d probably flashback to your New Year’s resolutions and update and tweak the list. But what if you wrote a list of all the things you would do between now and the end of the year if you knew that you were gonna die in your sleep at midnight on December 31, 2022? Would losing that weight you’ve wanted to lose or cleaning out the garage be on the list?
I always tell my clients, “If you want to create a New Year’s Resolution list that will make a difference in your life, make that list while you’re sitting in a graveyard. I promise that it will give you a new perspective on things and your list might look a lot different than it would if you made it sitting on your couch while you binge-watch The Bachelorette.”
You also want to make a few other lists.
Make a list of all things you would change in the world if you had the power. Are there injustices that you would make right? Social, economic, or environmental things that you would handle if you had the power to make changes? Don’t leave anything off of the list.
Lastly, write your eulogy. Assume that you had lived out everything that you wanted to do having left nothing on the table. Assume that you had used your power to shift the things in the world that you think need some changing. Read it aloud to yourself when you’re done.
Now for the real shocker. You have everything you need to avoid any deathbed regrets. You have the magic wand. You have the secret fairy dust. Just like in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy is trying to get back home. Glinda, the good witch reminds her that she had what she needed all the time. She just needed to find it out for herself. And what was it she found out? That everything she needed to find her way back home was in her all the time. She never needed to leave her backyard.
I take that to mean that you don’t need to look outside of yourself to live a life of no regrets.
All you have to do is ask yourself what a life of no regrets looks like for you. Then you let that activate your passion for all that you want for yourself and all that you care about for the world. The last step is the one that may be the hardest for you because it might take all your courage. I promise you that it is worth it.
The last step is to activate your superpower. Your superpower and your magic wand are your voice. Let your passion activate your voice and you will begin to see your life change. You will begin to see the world around you change. Our voices are the most powerful thing in our possession.
Use your voice because nobody ever changed the world with their silence.
Linda-Marie Miller is a Professional International Speaker, ICF Certified Coach, and Transformational Trainer. She is the author of the soon-to-be-published book “Pretending Not to Know™” and the “Champions of Change®” Training Program. You can connect with her and begin living a “Life of No Regrets” yourself by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org