Opportunities of a Lifetime

What do you want to be or do?

In last edition of this newsletter, I wrote an article describing my personal struggle to develop a more positive attitude to getting older. The article received lots of interest and comments. One was from coach and author, Gail La Grouw, who wrote:

"Good on you Peter!!! I turned 60 last year and regard it as a privilege to have reached this age. I feel even more obligated to live a life true to my own values. It's also the greatest excuse EVER for anything you want to be or do!"

This terrific reply raises interesting existential questions for people of any age – what do you want to be or do?

For many older people, thinking about these deep questions goes no further than dreaming of an around-the-world trip or improving one’s golf swing. But are there more profound answers?

One interesting source of wisdom is palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware. In her book about patients at the end of their lives, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, she writes: "When questioned about anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again."

Here are her findings:

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 realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

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.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

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.

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

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. 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.

So, what do YOU want to be or do? Read the list above a few times. It is not hard to come up with an action plan that can be implemented immediately!

(Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware, Hay House Australia Pty Ltd, 2012)

[Source: Peter Quarry is a former psychologist with a background in education and the media. He is also a qualified designer and artist.  He gives talks on the Psychology of Creativity. Visit creativepsych.net]