Wisdom Before and Now

Authenticity Happiness


Key Point: Part of the inspiration for my book, The Character Triangle, came from self reflective lessons shared by the elderly and dying. Bronnie Ware is a palliative care nurse who spent three to 12 weeks with the dying. She and her patients learned a lot from their journey to death together. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.” Please… Please learn from these themes that Bonnie so wonderfully captured. Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware and shared in a Huffington Post article:

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.”

Note: This same lesson is connected to the Character Triangle (CT) value of SELF ACCOUNTABILITY. The concept of “do it now and avoid blame” is completely aligned with this. In most cases, following your dreams is based on choices YOU make. Please don’t wait. What dreams do you want to leave to another life? What choices do you have to pursue those dreams now? 

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I 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 I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

Note: The operative lesson is living “lives on a treadmill of work existence.” Ideally, work is more than a treadmill. As I’ve often written, work feels better and different when it is at an intersection between what we like to do, what we’re good at, and the degree we add value desired by others. How are you doing at that?

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

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled 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.”

Note: The RESPECT aspect of CT includes having the ability to be self-aware and conduct crucial conversations with others. Bitterness and resentment is disrespectful; especially to yourself. Why would you put other’s and your health at risk by avoiding the conversations we need to have to move forward? We can’t control how people respond to our feelings, but we can control the courage to express them.

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.”

NOTE: ABUNDANCE, the other element of the CT is about the act of giving and generosity. This is mostly about giving of yourself to others without condition. And genuine, authentic generosity facilitates love and relationships to flourish. The people we deeply love stay close.

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

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did 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.”

Note: Wow… “Many did realize until the end that happiness is a choice.” Why would people add a “when” to choose happiness? When they retire? When they are skinnier? When they are richer? When they are affirmed and appreciated? When… When… When… We some wait for somebody else you can’t control to do something, or something you can control to happen without you doing anything about it. What a waste.

Character Moves:

  1. Step towards and honor at least some of your dreams. Put fear and whatever everyone thinks behind you. Work at and do what you make rewarding. Be self-aware and express your feelings. Give to and love yourself and others. Choose happiness now not “when.”
  2. Apply The Character Triangle… It will help make No. 1 above more attainable and that palliative time more gratifying.
  3. Remember that regardless of how well each of us does on our journey, that Ware’s final learning is most important of all: “People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.” You and I will find our peace at the end too. We won’t be perfect so what the heck? Let’s choose to have fewer regrets and more hoorays!

Peace in The Triangle,